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About Nelson Gonçalves

With his potent vocal gift and sentimental but talented interpretations, Nelson Gonçalves became hugely popular both as a singer and a composer (in dubious partnerships with Adelino Moreira). His professional career spanned from 1937 to 1997 and during that time he recorded over 120 LPs and 20 CDs, selling over 15 million copies of his albums, winning 15 platinum and 41 gold records. Gonçalves is, without doubt, one of the most important Brazilian singers. Gonçalves had a hard childhood, and when he was still a child, he started to work as a waiter, coming to know the nightlife in the humble boroughs of São Paulo. That experience would be instrumental later when he became a sort of spokesperson for the prostitutes, their clients, and all workers and characters involved in that scene. Singing the hard life of those people through overly emotional songs, lyrics, and renditions, electing love dramas and histories of treason and tragedies as main themes, he found his way to the hearts of both high and middle class individuals. At 19 Gonçalves became a singer at Rádio Tupi (São Paulo), evidencing a strong influence by Orlando Silva, soon substituted by a style based in the quasi-operatic interpretations of Vicente Celestino and Francisco Alves. This change was proven wise, for it was an adequate vehicle for the excessively dramatic content of the songs interpreted by him, usually sambas-canção and boleros. Already in Rio de Janeiro, he recorded for the first time in 1941. For this first album, he recorded the sambas "Sinto-me Bem" (Ataulfo Alves) and "Se Eu Pudesse Um Dia" (Oswaldo França/Rosano Monello). The album went well and he signed with RCA Victor, was hired by Rádio Mayrink Veiga, and was elected Rei do Rádio (The Radio King), all in the same year. Other hits he launched in that decade were "Maria Betânia" (Capiba), "Normalista" (Benedito Lacerda/David Nasser), "Caminhemos" (Herivelto Martins), "Renúncia" (Roberto Martins/Mário Rossi), among others. In the early '50s he became acquainted with Adelino Moreira, who became the King of Bolero in Brazil, sharing the same artistic orientation as Gonçalves. Among Adelino's songs launched with huge success by Gonçalves, "A Volta do Boêmio" (recorded in 1953) must be mentioned because of its everlasting importance. The unproven partnership between the two of them yielded 20 compositions and several classics like "Fica Comigo Esta Noite," "Êxtase," "Timidez," and others. In the same decade, Gonçalves performed in several countries, including the U.S. But in the late '50s his addiction to cocaine became notorious and he interrupted his career in 1962, having been arrested and tried in 1965. Absolved, he abandoned the vice and returned to the hit parades with the LP "A Volta do Boêmio, No. 1" (1965), continuing to make success. 1997's Ainda É Cedo was a surprise: he abandoned his traditional repertory and recorded Brazilian pop/rock hits of the '80s. Given his passion for singing and his easy connection with the masses, it was too early for him, as the album title said. ~ Alvaro Neder

21 Jun 1919