Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso: the story of a friendship

The mentors of the Tropicalist movement also met in Bahia and trod their paths, always meeting on stage, in prison, in exile and in albums.

By Instituto Gilberto Gil

Text: Chris Fuscaldo, journalist and music researcher

The Start of an Undying Friendship

Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso's friendship would surely be named Brazilian historical and cultural heritage if relationships of historical and symbolic importance could be included. Born less than two months apart in 1942, the two already had a lot in common before they met.

Bahia com H por Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso ao vivo
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"Rua Chile" (Chile street)

They met on Rua Chile in downtown Salvador in 1963 and became lifelong friends. Gil was walking down the street with the producer Roberto Sant'Ana, who spotted Caetano coming the other way and introduced them. 

Caetano Veloso e Gilberto Gil no show Barra 69, apresentado antes da partida para o exílio (1969-07-20)Instituto Gilberto Gil

A friendship was born that would take them from performing at Salvador's Vila Velha Theater (Teatro Vila Velha) to leaving for the big cities in the Southeast, starting the Tropicália movement, and sharing the experience of exile in London, as well as numerous joint projects. 

Letra da música Trovoada, apresentada por Gilberto Gil em 1965, em seu primeiro show individual, na Bahia (1965-08-19)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Caetano Veloso was the producer of Gil's first concert in Salvador, in 1965, entitled Inventário. That night, a paper with the lyrics, signed by Gil, remained in history because of an unprecedented song called Trovoada, whose melody was forgotten by both of them.

Guilherme Araújo, Gilberto Gil, Jorge Costa, Coelho Ribeiro, Maria Bethânia e Caetano Veloso na década de 1980 (1981)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Moving to the Southeast

Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso moved to southeastern Brazil at more or less the same time. Caetano made the move to be with his sister, Maria Bethânia, who was performing at Rio de Janeiro's Opinion Theater (Teatro Opinião) in 1965. 

Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso e Os Mutantes na final paulista do III Festival Internacional da Canção Popular, no TUCA (1968-09-15)Instituto Gilberto Gil

That same year, Gil moved to São Paulo to start work at the Gessy Lever company. The following year, the pair started performing at song festivals put on by Brazilian TV stations.

Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Sidney Miller e Elton Medeiros no Festival da Canção (1966)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Caetano Veloso e Gilberto Gil em apresentação nos anos 1960 (1968)Instituto Gilberto Gil

The Tropicália Movement

Although not exactly planned, the pair ended up founding the most revolutionary movement in the history of Brazilian music: Tropicália.

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

It started out as them just meeting up with other musicians and poets to write songs, talk, and create a new sound. After realizing that together they could create something different, they took their innovative ideas to the stages of music festivals, which had a huge audience.

Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso à época do Tropicalismo (1968)Instituto Gilberto Gil

The influences from avant-garde artistic movements, and Brazilian and foreign pop culture, produced a mixture of traditional Brazilian culture and esthetic innovations. This new style would soon capture the whole country's attention, and Caetano and Gil became known as "tropicalistas".

Gal Costa na estreia do programa Divino Maravilhoso (10/28/1968)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Alongside Gal Costa, they went on to have their own TV show called Divino Maravilhoso, which was also the title of one of Caetano's songs. 

Caetano Veloso na estreia do programa Divino Maravilhoso (10/28/1968)Instituto Gilberto Gil

However, it only remained on air for three months because the improvised show proved too shocking for the TV Tupi directors, who feared a reaction from the military regime's censors.

Gilberto Gil e Sérgio Dias em show realizado com Caetano Veloso na Boate Sucata (1968)Instituto Gilberto Gil

London, London, por Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso ao vivo
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Prison, a Concert, and Exile

Having apparently scandalized the military during their performances at TV Globo's International Song Festival (Festival Internacional da Canção) in 1968, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso were arrested.

Gilberto Gil no III Festival Internacional da Canção Popular (1968-09-14)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gil performed Questão de Ordem on stage with the Argentinian rock band Beat Boys, and Caetano Veloso sang É Proibido Proibir with the group Os Mutantes.

Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso e Os Mutantes em show na boate Sucata (Outubro de 1968)Instituto Gilberto Gil

At Sucata, Caetano, Gil and Mutantes took risks: on the stage, there was a work by the artist Hélio Oiticica with the image of the criminal Cara de Cavalo (executed by the police death squad) and the inscription: "Be marginal, be a hero" .

Gilberto Gil Caetano Veloso na década de 1960 (1967)Instituto Gilberto Gil

The military heard about this “flag” along with rumors that the national anthem had been sung profanely. The military got the news. On December 27, the two were awakened and taken in a van for two months in prison.

Caetano Veloso no show Barra 69, que apresentou com Gilberto Gil antes da partida para o exílio (1969-07-20)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Caetano and Gil were also forced to stay under house arrest in Salvador. After a negotiation, they planned an exile in Europe. To raise funds for the move to England, the two presented, in Salvador, the concert which would become known as Barra 69 after the album's release in 1972.

Gilberto Gil e o Conjunto Folclórico Viva Bahia no show Barra 69, apresentado com Caetano Veloso antes do exílio (1969-07-20)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil ao telefone no exílio (Década de 1970)Instituto Gilberto Gil

The return to the country and presentations

Gil and his then wife, Sandra Gadelha, as well as Caetano and his wife, Dedé Gadelha, stayed in London until 1972, when they finally managed to negotiate the return to their country.

Gilberto Gil em apresentação no evento Phono 73 (1973)Instituto Gilberto Gil

In 1973, the two participated in the Phono 73 festival, organized by the record label Phonogram and held in São Paulo.

Fachada da casa de espetáculos que recebeu a turnê Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música, de Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso (2015-07-01)Instituto Gilberto Gil

When they returned to Brazil in 1972, Gil and Caetano threw themselves into new projects. The military dictatorship was still determining which songs could be recorded and performed, but the pair continued to pursue their careers.

Os Doces Bárbaros: Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, Maria Bethânia e Caetano Veloso (Década de 1970)Instituto Gilberto Gil

In 1976, they joined the Bahian vocalists Gal Costa and Maria Bethânia to stage the Doces Bárbaros show, which they later took on tour around Brazil.

Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso no palco (1978)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Concert Appearances

Over the following years, it became normal to see Gilberto Gil performing in a Caetano Veloso concert, and to see Caetano performing in one of Gil's shows. During the tours for three of Gil's most important albums—Refazenda, Refavela, and Realce—Caetano was always there, and he was also behind the scenes on other shows, such as Luar.

Gilberto Gil com o cantor Caetano Veloso no show comemorativo Gil: 20 Anos-luz (Novembro de 1985)Instituto Gilberto Gil

One event that Caetano could not miss was Gil: 20 Anos Luz, which was held to celebrate Gil's two decades in music, in 1985, with many guests.

Caetano Veloso no showmício da campanha de Gilberto Gil para vereador de Salvador (1988-09-16)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Friends Even in Politics

In 1988, Gil decided to run for Salvador's City Council (Câmara Municipal) as the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) candidate. Caetano was one of the performers at a concert rally held in the Bahian capital during the campaign, which saw Gil elected councillor with the largest number of votes.

Campanha de Gilberto Gil para vereador de Salvador (1988-09-03)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Sting e Elton John em show beneficente no Carnegie Hall, em Nova Iorque (1991)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Partners in Activism

In 1991, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso joined Elton John, Sting (lead singer of British band The Police), and the Brazilian conductor and bossa nova star Tom Jobim in New York.

Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Sting e Elton John em show beneficente no Carnegie Hall, em Nova Iorque (1991)Instituto Gilberto Gil

They put on a benefit concert at New York's Carnegie Hall to raise funds for the Fundação Mata Virgem (Virgin Forest Foundation). Once again, Gil and Caetano were proving to be inseparable, this time both in music and environmental activism. 

Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso na calçada da fama do Jazz à Juan (1994-07-22)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Walk of Fame

Jazz à Juan is a music festival held in Juan-les-Pins, France.  

In 1994, Gil and Caetano appeared at the festival and were invited to leave their handprints on the Walk of Fame.  

Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso na calçada da fama do Jazz à Juan (1994-07-22)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Here they were again, doing something together.    

Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso em show para o Festival Jazz à Vienne, da turnê europeia Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música (2015-07-03)Instituto Gilberto Gil

A century of friendship

In 2015, Gil and Caetano got together on a tour that celebrated 50 years of their friendship: Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música was a concert performed around the world and became an album.

Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso no show Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música no Porto (2016-04-24)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso no show Tropicália Duo (1994)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Celebrating a Tropicálista Friendship

In 1993, Gil and Caetano decided to celebrate their 30-year friendship and the 26th anniversary of the Tropicália movement by recording the Tropicália 2 album.

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In July that year, Gil was honored with a Brazilian night at the 27th Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. The concert was called Gilberto Gil and Friends, and featured Caetano, Gal Costa, Chico Buarque, Dominguinhos, and the vocal group Trio Esperança

Rascunhos de shows de Gilberto Gil Esboço 2 do show Tropicália 2, de Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso (1993)Instituto Gilberto Gil

A couple of concerts were also staged to promote Tropicália 2 album, released by PolyGram. The first was in a square in Rio de Janeiro called Praça da Apoteose, on September 25, and the second was at the Anhembi Arts and Culture Center (Pólo de Arte e Cultura do Anhembi) in São Paulo, on October 2.

Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso em show da turnê do álbum Tropicália 2 (1993)Instituto Gilberto Gil

On stage, they were as in tune as when they first were starting out.

Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso em show da turnê do álbum Tropicália 2 (1993)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil and the singer, songwriter and musical partner Caetano Veloso in the recordings of the album Tropicália 2 (Março de 1993)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil e Caetano Veloso no camarim do show QuantaInstituto Gilberto Gil

A Friendship That Became a Legacy

Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso are close friends; best buddies; friends for life. The beautiful love story between these two Bahians has already celebrated its golden anniversary and there is still a lot more to come.

Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, André Midani e Hermano Vianna durante gravação da série André Midani - Do Vinil Ao DownloadInstituto Gilberto Gil

The pair have become two of the biggest names in the world of music, both in Brazil and on other continents. With some of the songs they cowrote, including Panis et Circenses, they will leave a huge legacy to Brazilian music.

Credits: Story


Exhibit credits

Text, research and assembly: Chris Fuscaldo

General credits

Editing and curation: Chris Fuscaldo / Garota FM 
Musical content research: Ceci Alves, Chris Fuscaldo, Laura Zandonadi e Ricardo Schott 
Ministry of Culture content research: Carla Peixoto, Ceci Alves, Chris Fuscaldo 
Captions: Anna Durão, Carla Peixoto, Ceci Alves, Chris Fuscaldo, Daniel Malafaia, Fernanda Pimentel, Gilberto Porcidonio, Kamille Viola, Laura Zandonadi, Lucas Vieira, Luciana Azevedo, Patrícia Sá Rêgo, Pedro Felitte, Ricardo Schott, Roni Filgueiras e Tito Guedes 
Data editing: Isabela Marinho and Marco Konopacki
Gege Produções Review: Cristina Doria
Acknowledgements Gege Produções, Gilberto Gil, Flora Gil, Gilda Mattoso, Fafá Giordano, Maria Gil, Meny Lopes, Nelci Frangipani, Cristina Doria, Daniella Bartolini e todos os autores das fotos e personagens da história
All media: Instituto Gilberto Gil

*Every effort has been made to credit the images, audios and videos and correctly tell the story about the episodes narrated in the exhibitions. If you find errors and/or omissions, please contact us by email atendimentogil@gege.com.br

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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