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Music – 1978 – Sergio Mendez + Brazil 66 – Fool On A Hill + The Look Of Love + Going Out Of My Head

Sérgio Mendes (born February 11, 1941) is a Brazilian musician…..who has over 55 releases in albums and singles…..while playing bossa nova heavily crossed with jazz and funk.  He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song in 2012 as co-writer of the song “Real in Rio” from the animated film Rio.

Mendes is a unique example of a Brazilian musician primarily known in the United States, where his albums were recorded and where most of his touring took place.

Mendes is married to Gracinha Leporace, who has performed with him since the early 1970’s. Mendes has also collaborated with many artists through the years, including The Black Eyed Peas….with whom he re-recorded in 2006 a version of his breakthrough hit “Mas Que Nada”.  

All of Mendes’ jazz albums for Atlantic Records, through Nesuhi and Ahmet Ertegun, had low sales. Richard Adler suggested that Mendes and the group sing in English….s well as Portuguese which Mendes had demanded….and Adler sought new English-based material such as “Going Out of My Head” by Teddy Randazzo and Bobby Weinstein. In order to sing these songs properly in English….Adler suggested that the group find two American girl singers who would sing in both English and Portuguese…..and that is when Adler called his friend Jerry Dennon….along with A&M Records founders Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss….and arranged for an audition for Mendes’ new group….which was dubbed “Brasil ’66′”…..then Alpert and Moss signed Mendes and his group to A&M Records. Adler then went to the Ertegun Brothers at Atlantic Records and sought to have them release Mendes from his Atlantic Jazz contract. Ahmet agreed to allow him to record albums under name “Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66” with A&M. Mendes was not at this meeting, only Adler and Ahmet Ertegun. Alpert took over as producer for the A&M albums, and the group became a huge success with their first single, “Mas Que Nada” by writer Jorge Ben.

The first album on A&M was Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66….is an album that went platinum based largely on the success of the single “Mas Que Nada” …..along with the personal support of Alpert….with whom Mendes toured.

The original lineup of Brasil ’66 was Mendes (piano), vocalists Lani Hall (later Herb Alpert’s wife) and Bibi Vogel (later replaced by Janis Hansen), Bob Matthews (bass), José Soares (percussion) and João Palma (drums). John Pisano played guitar. This new line-up including Hansen then recorded two more albums between 1966–1968….including the best-selling Look Around LP)….before there was a major personnel change for their fourth album Fool on the Hill.

Karen Philipp replaced Hansen as the second female vocalist….while veteran drummer Dom Um Romão teamed with Rubens Bassini to assume percussionist duties….while Claudio Slon joined the group as drummer in 1969….and then played with Mendes for nearly a decade. Sebastião Neto was the new bassist and Oscar Castro-Neves, the guitarist. This line-up had a more orchestrated sound than its predecessors. Most significantly, in the early 1970’s….when lead singer Hall pursued a solo career….and became Alpert’s second wife. 

Though Sergio’s early singles with Brasil ’66….most notably “Mas Que Nada” met with some success…. Mendes really burst into mainstream prominence when he performed the Oscar-nominated “The Look of Love” on the Academy Awards telecast in April 1968. Brasil ’66’s version of the song quickly shot into the top 10….while peaking at # 4….and eclipsing Dusty Springfield’s version from the soundtrack of the movie, Casino Royale

Mendes spent the rest of 1968 enjoying consecutive top 10 and top 20 hits with his follow-up singles, “The Fool on the Hill” and “Scarborough Fair.” From 1968 on, Mendes was arguably the biggest Brazilian star in the world….enjoying immense popularity worldwide….while performing in venues as varied as stadium arenas and the White House….where he gave concerts for both presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon. The Brasil ’66 group appeared at the World Expo in Osaka, Japan in June 1970.

Mendes’ career in the U.S. stalled in the mid-1970’s….but he remained very popular in South America and Japan.  His two albums with Bell Records in 1973 and 1974….which was followed by several for Elektra from 1975 on….found Mendes continuing to mine the best in American pop music and post-Bossa writers of his native Brazil….while forging new directions in soul with collaborators like Stevie Wonder, who wrote Mendes’ R&B-inflected minor hit, “The Real Thing”.

In 1983, he rejoined Alpert’s A&M records while enjoying huge success with a self-titled album and several follow-up albums….all of which received considerable adult contemporary airplay with charting singles. “Never Gonna Let You Go”….which featured vocals by Joe Pizzulo and Leza Miller….and equaled the success of his 1968 single “The Look of Love” by reaching # 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart….while alson spending four weeks atop the Billboard adult contemporary chart.  In 1984 he recorded the Confetti album, which had the hit songs “Olympia”….which was also used as a theme song for the Olympic games that year and “Alibis”. The ’80s also found Mendes working with singer Lani Hall again on the song “No Place to Hide” from the Brasil ’86 album….and as producer of her vocals on the title song for the James Bond film Never Say Never Again.

By the time Mendes released his Grammy-winning Elektra album Brasileiro in 1992….he was the undisputed master of pop-inflected Brazilian jazz. The late-1990’s lounge music revival brought retrospection and respect to Mendes’ oeuvre…. particularly the classic Brasil ’66 albums.

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