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  • Writer's pictureLucas Lima

How the First Brazilian Rock Was Born

Cauby Peixoto recorded the first genuinely Brazilian rock song.

Cauby Peixoto cantando durante apresentação nos anos 70
Cauby Peixoto | Reprodução

Brazilian rock has gone through various phases, periods of experimentation, success, and innovation. But how exactly did this musical genre arrive in Brazil?

Nora Ney was a pioneer in the style by bringing a version of "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Halley to the country. Later, another version, this time in Portuguese by Júlio Nagib, became known as "Ronda Das Horas" and was sung by Heleninha Silveira. Celly Campello was the first singer to have success with the genre, scoring hits like "Estúpido Cupido" and "Banho de Lua."

Now, if you’re wondering who made the first genuinely Brazilian rock song, the correct name is Miguel Gustavo. He was a composer of sambas and marchinhas, famous for writing the jingle for the Brazilian soccer team’s third World Cup win. Miguel wrote "Rock 'N' Roll em Copacabana," a song performed by Cauby Peixoto in a 1957 recording.

According to music researcher Julio Ettore, the choice of performer was spot on: Cauby, who was already significant in the Brazilian music scene, had been exposed to the genre during trips to the United States. He came from a family of musicians and, according to Ettore, "was the closest we had to Elvis Presley."

The Rhythm of Lost Youth

From the moment it landed in Brazil, rock was viewed with suspicion, especially because it resonated most with the youth and expressed a certain rebelliousness compared to the customs of the time. And it stayed that way for a long time.

Throughout history, there have been significant events illustrating the prejudice against the style. One of the most famous was the march against the electric guitar in 1967, organized by musicians who defended the sovereignty of Brazilian music. Rock was seen as a foreign culture taking up space from genres like bossa nova and MPB. At the time, Jovem Guarda had become popular and featured songs heavily influenced by English rock 'n' roll, especially due to the Beatles’ explosion.

Within the artistic community, the tide turned quickly. A prime example is the emergence of tropicalismo with the São Paulo band Mutantes, who played with Gilberto Gil at the 1967 Festival da Música Popular Brasileira. Gil had participated in the march against the electric guitar.

But overall, Brazilian rockers continued to carry the stereotype of being troublemakers, as Rita Lee sang in 1980 in "Orra Meu." This was the view of the style in the 1970s, a sentiment that intensified with the emergence of punk rock in the outskirts.

The media only truly embraced the genre in the 1980s, during a period of political openness when rock became associated with the feeling of freedom. This era saw the birth of bands like Blitz, Legião Urbana, Paralamas do Sucesso, Ira!, and many others. Rock In Rio was also born, and bands that had been on the fringes, like Plebe Rude and Inocentes with their punk rock roots, found their place in the sun.

Brazilian Rock is Original

Though Brazilian rock clearly drew from foreign sources, it's undeniable that the style gained originality over the years. From Nora Ney to today, we've seen unique artists who added local flavors to songs that have gone down in history. We can name countless examples: Mutantes, Secos e Molhados, Raul Seixas, Rita Lee, Ira!, Paralamas do Sucesso, Nação Zumbi, Raimundos, Sepultura...

Long live Brazilian rock!

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