Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Jorge Ben Makes Me Hot

Normally I’m not a very definitive person, but I can say without a doubt that Jorge Ben’s recording of “Menina Mulher da Pela Preta” on his 1972 album A Tabua de Esmeralda is definitely the best song ever recorded. I was recently introduced to Ben by a friend whose Latin music mixed CDs will be pumping through the speakers of a vegetable mobile perusing the inner city streets of Schenectady, Albany, and Troy.

Ben is the epitome of warm weather inner city music, and his recording of “Menina Mulher da Pela Preta” (which freetranslation.com tells me means “Girl Wife of the By the Black One” and since my Portuguese isn’t very good I’ll have to take their word for it) captures in 2 minutes and 57 seconds the equatorial feel of Brazil (which I’ve never been to but I imagine to be hot).

As a lover of samba, salsa and other hot music, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to find out about Ben, who wrote arguably one of the most well known bossa nova songs “Mas, Que Nada” (or “But That Nothing”) which was covered by numerous well known artists, such as Sergio Mendes. You probably know it, (think: women with high voices singing “oooh, waaaadeeeeaaah ooo oooohh baaa oohhh baaa”). I never knew it was Jorge Ben that wrote this classic song. “Mas, Que Nada” is one of those songs that you think doesn’t have an author, it just exists and always has. I felt the same way about “This Land is Your Land” until I found out that Woody Guthrie wrote that song. And the mystery authors revealed never disappoint me.

The only downfall to this recording of “Menina Mulher da Pela Preta” is that some silly producer cuts off his absolutely mind blowing vocal jam at the end of the song. But the same way in which some jazz connoisseurs say that the biggest mistake ever made in the history of jazz recording was arranger Gordon Jenkins’ addition of a Protestant Choir behind Billie Holiday’s unchoirlike voice in “God Bless the Child,” we realize that big mistakes cast upon great songs make the listener realize just how tough great songs really are. They can stand up to the mistakes and still leave you shaking your head in awe of it all.

Check out Jorge Ben’s sweet tropicaliaish web site, full of song clips and even sheet music, but brush up on your Portuguese because I don’t think freetranslation.com will be able to help you out with his lengthy biography.

1 comment:

jonathan said...

okay, i have to object. the best song is clearly Safety Dance, although that dance isn't as safe as they say, it is the best song ever recorded. or maybe it's something else of my BIG 80's mix that i got last week & will hate next.


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