Category Archives: Harmon/Kardon

Astrud Gilberto

The record that introduced the voice of Astrud Gilberto

The last icon of my New York City childhood is not a visual icon but a vocal one.  Astrud Gilberto, a young Brazilian woman, came to the United States in the early sixties with her husband the guitarist Joao Gilberto and legendary songwriter, arranger and bossa nova stylist Antonio Carlos Jobim at the invitation of sax player Stan Getz to record an album of new jazz samba that would sell millions of copies and become one of the most well known jazz albums of all time and an iconic sound of the 60s.  Astrud had never sung professionally but was pressed into service to sing “The Girl From Ipanema” because she was the only one of the Brazilians who could speak English.  The low affect of her voice was the perfect counter-point the emotional inflection of her husband’s guitar and Getz’s hushed sexy-voiced saxophone.  The record resonated from tropical wood stereo speakers in living rooms lit by the soft green lights of Harmon/Kardon receivers all over America.  Astrud became the female voice of the 60s of my mother’s generation — the epitome of cool, adult sophistication.  She left Gilberto for Getz in the mid-sixties and continued to record and sing until an unofficial retirement in 2002.  Mother saw her in the late 60s in New York and I can still remember falling to sleep on Park Avenue to the clinking of classes, the laughter of grown up conversation and the soft voice of Astrud singing.