On my first trip to Brazil, whenever I heard a great rock song on the local radio, I asked one of our hosts who was playing. ‘Um, it must be Charlie Brown Jr,” was always the answer. I don’t think our host liked rock music and Charlie Brown must have been the only local rock band he knew! It turns out that only one of the songs that I particularly liked on that trip in 2003 (Só por uma noite, meaning Only for one night or For one night only) was by Charlie Brown (the rest were by the likes of Capital Inicial, Detonautas Roque Clube, CPM 22 etc) but I figured Charlie Brown must be pretty good too so I bought what was then their latest CD, Bocas Ordinárias, on spec, and have followed them on and off since. In truth, they are a mixed bag: some of their stuff is really great, some of their material is too “way out there” for my liking, but they were pioneers on the Brazilian music scene. You could call them the Brazlian Red Hot Chilli Peppers. They are from Santos on the São Paulo coast and twice won the Grammy Latino award for best rock album. Incidentally I am not a great fan of rap but I think Brazilian Portuguese is a great language to rap in.
This week a Brazilian friend posted on Facebook a report from a Sao Paulo newspaper, Estadão, that the lead singer of Charlie Brown Jnr, who was nicknamed Chorão, had died at the age of 42. The report in Portuguese is here, written in a very factual way, while one in English can be found here. Chorão apparently wasn’t the most pleasant of characters (he verbally abused a fellow band member for more than four minutes over the microphone in the middle of a concert, prompting the band member to storm off stage), but it’s not for me to judge the personal differences between band members, apart from the fact that they shouldn’t be aired on stage! Rock music is full of troubled souls, anyway. The word chorão means a whimperer, whiner, crybaby or sniveller, and it is also a weeping willow. Make of that what you will!
At the top of this article is a YouTube posting of an MTV acoustic set version of possibly my favourite Charlie Brown Jr song Tudo Mudar (como pode tudo mudar means how can everything change). It will give you a good idea of Chorão’s vocal prowess, as well as that of the guitarists. For those who are not familiar with the band, the Acústico MTV CD or DVD from 2003 is probably the best place to start. But the “electronic” version of Tudo Mudar, from the album Nadando com os Tubarões (Swimming with the Sharks), released in 2000, is really great too. The vocal effects are really good, as indeed is the guitar work. Here it is:
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