Gilberto Gil and rock

The artist has always been connected to the music of the world, which turns hard to picture where the rocker ends or begins.

By Instituto Gilberto Gil

Text: Ricardo Schott, journalist and musical reseacher

Gilberto Gil e o produtor Liminha nas gravações da canção Vamos Fugir, para o álbum Raça Humana (1984-04-27)Instituto Gilberto Gil

“The proximity of (producer) Liminha with the rock world helped me a lot. So I was having the Lulu Santos playing with me here and there, Hebert Vianna (from Os Paralamas do Sucesso)…

“… during this phase, my music already was clearly a music by a musical group, a band, under my leadership…

Gilberto Gil durante show na década de 1970 (1973)Instituto Gilberto Gil

“… In the Tropicália, the electric guitars got closer to my work, but not to my hands. They were in the hands of Serginho (Dias, from Os Mutantes), Lanny (Gordin). When I got to London I was thinking, ‘Here I am, alone, what am I going to do with my life?’…

“… I went to a guitar shop in Downtown London, bought a Gibson 335 and took it home to see what I could do with that thing…

“… then I had the beating of the electric guitar. I did not move on to solo with the electric guitar because I thought I was not good enough for it, but I kept the beating that came with the acoustic guitar.”

Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil na Inglaterra na década de 1970Instituto Gilberto Gil

Sargento Pimenta e A Banda Solidão e Back In Bahia por Gilberto Gil em show voz e violão

The turn to Tropicalism, in 1967, had happened, partially, because of The Beatles. Gilberto Gil was fascinated by the Fab Four’s Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, released in that year.

Something por Gilberto Gil e Milton Nascimento em ensaio para show conjunto

He was already into the band because of albums such as Rubber Soul (1965) and Revolver (1966), and saw there a revolution, which Brazilian popular music had to follow.

Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Caetano Veloso, Jorge Ben e os Mutantes (1968)Instituto Gilberto Gil

He even exposed his restlessness to friends, but his great supporter was Caetano Veloso, his eternal partner. He wrote “Domingo no parque” already with a Beatles-like pop touch to it in mind, and was introduced by Rogério Duprat to a young group from São Paulo, Os Mutantes.

Gilberto Gil no III Festival da Música Popular Brasileira (Outubro de 1967)Instituto Gilberto Gil

With them, Gil played the song in the III Brazilian Popular Music Festival, broadcast by TV Record, in 1967, and recorded virtually the entire Gilberto Gil album, his second one, released in that year.

Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Caetano Veloso, Jorge Ben e os Mutantes (1968)Instituto Gilberto Gil

He was impressed by the virtuosity of the group’s guitar player, Serginho Dias, who would play classic music, jazz, rock, and Brazilian music in it, not caring about anyone’s opinion.

Gilberto Gil e Elis Regina durante show na década de 1970Instituto Gilberto Gil

It is worth saying that Gilberto Gil went through a turning point in his way of seeing and thinking of music shortly before. In July 1967, he joined the March Against the Electric Guitar, on the request of his friend Elis Regina, leader of the movement…

… as a promotional tool for the TV show Frente Ampla da MPB, broadcast by TV Record. However, Gil stated to regret that, later on, and said he only attended it for Elis.

With Tropicália, Gil started his own “rocker” career, which would move parallel to that of great artist of Brazilian music—making it hard to picture where one ends and another starts. The songwriter, influenced by Luiz Gonzaga’s baiões and by the acoustic guitar of João Gilberto, was an individual connected, from early on, to the music of the world. For he would not fail to listen to the young music from the 1960s.

Gilberto Gil no III Festival da Música Popular Brasileira (1967)Instituto Gilberto Gil

The Gil who lifted his acoustic guitar up in the air with open arms in the performance of “Domingo no parque” in the festival was the same one who used to listen to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones at home, and who, soon enough, would go crazy over Jimi Hendrix’s guitar.

The same one who would get to record with the Argentinian group who accompanied Caetano Veloso in “Alegria, alegria,” the Beat Boys. The distorted guitars accompanied him in one of his rockiest moments: “Questão de ordem,” a protest song, in the III International Song Festival, in 1968.

The arrival in London increased the number of rockers who shared stages or studios with Gil, as he went to local clubs and jammed with names such as Jim Capaldi (Traffic) and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), in addition to meeting bands such as Led Zeppelin, when they were first starting. Gil, Caetano, and friends also attended the Wight Island Festival, where they could see names such as Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, and The Who. He also had jam sessions with members of Hawkwind, a progressive band launching their career. When Gil first arrived in London, he stayed for a while at Terry Reid’s home, an English singer that almost was the lead singer of Led Zeppelin.

Gilberto Gil em ensaio fotográfico durante o exílio (1972)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Crazy Pop Rock de Gilberto Gil no álbum homônimo de 1971

The association of Gil and rock moves further. His Londoner album had two great names of glam rock in the team: producer Ralph Mace and guitar player Mick Ronson, both linked to David Bowie (the guitar solos can be listened to in Crazy Pop Rock, by Gil and Mautner).

When he returned, he went for rock in “Back in Bahia,” which he recorded in the album Expresso 2222 (1972), in reference to “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” by the Beatles. In 1972, he appeared in a TV show in Rede Globo, with Caetano, playing guitar in this song.

Gilberto Gil em show do álbum Realce (1979)Instituto Gilberto Gil

In his band, throughout the 1970s, Gilberto Gil gave room to musicians that were coming from the Brazilian rock, such as Lucia Turnbull (voice), Arnaldo Brandão (bass), Chiquinho Azevedo (drums), and several others.

Gilberto Gil em show do álbum Realce (1979)Instituto Gilberto Gil


He got to 1979 with Realce, an album that had in its credits the former Mutante (and future producer) Liminha, in addition to members of the American pop band Toto (opening solo in Reace is performed by Steve Lukather.)

Gilberto Gil em show da turnê Doces Bárbaros no Canecão (1976-08-01)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Chuck Berry Fields Forever por Gilberto Gil no Hollywood Rock

Right before this, it was the time for Gil to shout out that “rock is our time” in “Chuck Berry Fields Forever,” sided by Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethânia, and Gal Costa, in the Doces Bárbaros concert (1976). It was also time for him to tour the country with Rita Lee in Refestança, afterwards.

Gilberto Gil em show da turnê Raça Humana, ao lado do guitarrista Celso Fonseca (1985)Instituto Gilberto Gil

The Brazilian rock hitting the charts would also change Gil, whose rocker, modern side, would show sharply in albums such as Extra (1983) and Raça Humana (1984).

Gilberto Gil em show da turnê Raça Humana (1985)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Punk da Periferia

In the first, he would write a song on the São Paulo punks, “Punk da Periferia,” with Lulu Santos on the electric guitar.

Gilberto Gil grava Pessoa Nefasta para o álbum Raça Humana

The second had new wave sounds in songs as “Feliz por um triz” and “Pessoa nefasta”, and featured yet another Brazilian rocker, Ritchie, in the vocals of “Tempo Rei”. Also adding one more rock to his repertoire, “Extra II – o rock do segurança.”

Gilberto Gil em apresentação no Rock in Rio (1985-01)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil would go up on the stage of the first Rock in Rio Festival in 1985, crowning there his experience as a rock bandleader, performing a great show in which he played electric guitar and dressed in new wave clothing.

Gilberto Gil em show da turnê Dia Dorim Noite Neon (1985)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Roque Santeiro, o Rock

Meanwhile, he was preparing Dia Dorim Noite Neon (1985), an LP in which he honored Brazilian rock in “Rock santeiro,” with Sergio Dias on the electric guitar. Gil repeated, 17 years later, the verse “Serginho, cabelulado danado” which he had used in “Pega a voga, cabeludo,” from his second album.

Herbert Vianna, Gilberto Gil, João Barone e Bi Ribeiro se encontram na França (1999)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil apresenta A Novidade em show da turnê Unplugged em Montevidéu

The ties to Brazilian rock were fittingly closed during that time. In 1987, it would be Gil’s turn to have his first partnership with Os Paralamas do Sucessos, singing in “Alagados” and writing lyrics for “A novidade.”

The singer had started his relationship with the group throughout the year of 1985, in a collaboration that comprehended appearances in concerts and even Hebert Vianna’s electric guitar, in one of the tracks in Dia Dorim, “Seu Olhar.”

João Barone, Paralamas’s drummer, had participated in “It’s Good to Be Alive,” a song that Gil recorded during album’s sessions, but was kept out of final selection.

In the picture, the Bahia-born in a meeting with the band in the late 1990s.

Gilberto Gil e banda no show 20 Anos-Luz (1985-11)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Both Paralamas and Titãs were guests in the concert Gil 20 Anos-Luz, a major celebrative event of his 20th career anniversive, in 1985.

Gilberto Gil em show voz e violão - Parte 6

The Titãs even surprised him during the concert, with a version of one of his songs which had never been released, “TV Punk”—and which Paulo Miklos had recorded at a K7 in a Gil’s concert he attended.

Gilberto Gil e Erasmo Carlos no show 20 Anos-Luz (1985-11)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil e Raul Seixas durante o show 20 Anos-LuzInstituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil e e o guitarrista Celso Fonseca no show 20 Anos-Luz (Novembro de 1985)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil e Pepeu Gomes no show 20 Anos-Luz (1985-11)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil e Chico Science nos bastidores de show no Central Park, em Nova Iorque (1995-06-19)Instituto Gilberto Gil

In 1995 it was time for Gil to meet yet another novelty in Brazilian rock: Chico Science & Nação Zumbi, with whom he shared a stage in New York in that same year, performing the hit “Macô.”

In the album Afrociberdelia, the second by the Pernambuco-native group, Gil sings song title duetting with Marcelo D2.

Gil keeps walking the rock paths in several moments, to the extent of being appointed by international critics as a sort of mix of The Beatles and Bob Dylan in a single person.

Credits: Story

Exhibit credits

Text and research: Ricardo Schott
Editing: Chris Fuscaldo
Assembly: Patrícia Sá Rêgo
Copyediting: Laura Zandonadi

General credits

Editing and curating: Chris Fuscaldo / Garota FM
Musical content research: Ceci Alves, Chris Fuscaldo, and Ricardo Schott
MinC content research: Carla Peixoto, Ceci Alves, and Laura Zandonadi
Photo subtitles: Anna Durão, Carla Peixoto, Ceci Alves, Chris Fuscaldo, Daniel Malafaia, Gilberto Porcidonio, Kamille Viola, Laura Zandonadi, Lucas Vieira, Luciana Azevedo, Patrícia Sá Rêgo, Pedro Felitte, Ricardo Schott, Roni Filgueiras, and Tito Guedes
Subtitle copyediting: Anna Durão, Carla Peixoto, Laura Zandonadi, and Patrícia Sá Rêgo
Data editing: Isabela Marinho
Acknowledgments: Gege Produções, Gilberto Gil, Flora Gil, Gilda Mattoso, Fafá Giordano, Maria Gil, Meny Lopes, Nelci Frangipani, Cristina Doria, Daniella Bartolini, and all photographers and characters in the stories
All media: Instituto Gilberto Gil

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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