The “King” as we know him in mainstream media history, for better or worse, is Elvis Presley. At least this is the popular culture myth held fast by the average North American ever since the rock n roller first took to the charts in the 50s. But times have changed and the world has become smaller. A savvy, more worldly populace has accepted many kingdoms of pop music and many kings have emerged. We world citizens know that the world of pop music transcends many borders and each place has its own “king”.
The King of Brazilian pop music is Roberto Carlos. This shouldn’t be taken lightly, the only other person called the King in mainstream Brazilian pop culture is Pelé, the best soccer (or rather football or futebol) player ever.
Roberto Carlos, himself influenced by Elvis, has sold over 120 million albums around the world. He is considered one of the most influential artists in Brazil during the 1960s, said to be a source of inspiration by many artists and bands up to the 1980s and recently experiencing a revival in popularity. He was part of the Jovem Guarda or the “young guard” as opposed to the velha guarda, the “old guard.” The Jovem Guarda in the 60s represented the new age of Brazilian funky rock & roll but with a Brazilian twist. The Jovem Guarda included Erasmo Carlos (a great Roberto Carlos co-writer), and Wanderlei (a woman pop star). the Jovem Guarda sound was a kind of Brazilian version of the North American garage bands in the 60’s but with a bit of Motown soul influence. You can kind of say that the Jovem Guarda movement, which combined elements of fashion and behavior, is the pre-cursor to the tropicalia movement already featured on this blog.
Throughout his career he has gone through many genres inside the realm of musica popular brasileira, including adult contemporay, rock n roll, funky jazzy stuff and “romantic” music. He has sung mostly in Portuguese, of course, but also in English and Italian! Every year for many years on Globo TV, he would host a TV special featuring him in concert presenting his greatest hits. I personally like to compare him to Rod Steward, but I don’t want a bounty placed on my head by Brazilian music aficionados who love king Roberto Carlos. In Rio de Janeiro, there is a cool kid carnival bloco, who play only Roberto Carlos music, called Exalta Rei, which means “Hail the King” or Exalt the King” or something of the sort, regardless they are a lot of fun, and because they only play Roberto Carlos, everyone sings along!
In 1989, Roberto Carlos became one of the only Brazilians ever to win a Grammy Award in the category of Best Latin Pop Album with Roberto Carlos / Tolo.
In recent times, Roberto Carlos has been getting more props or respect by the younger generation because a lot of prominent “cool” Brazilian musicians (like Cassia Eller and Skank) have helped him by covering his older Jovem Guarda stuff.
On July 11, 2009, to celebrate his 50th career anniversary, Roberto Carlos performed a major show at Maracanã Stadium. It was his first presentation in the stadium. The estimated audience was about 70,000 people. Roberto Carlos’s 50th career anniversary was also celebrated with a major exhibition in the Lucas Nogueira Garcez Pavilion, located inIbirapuera Park, São Paulo. The interactive expo, inaugurated on March 4, 2010, depicts both Roberto Carlos’s life and career. Guess what guys? As if his career wasn’t great enough, he’s coming to Toronto to perform!! stay tuned
And just so you can understand the impact of this man on the popular imagination of all Brazilians, from the romantic muscle bound guys with gold chains, to the fun loving hipsters, here is a clip of the best carnival moments of the previously mentioned carnival group Exalta Rei, the King even shows up to greet the people! Notice how everyone sings along.