Follow-Up to Sergio Mendes post

Dad - December 1965
Dad – December 1965

Yesterday I was searching for a fountain pen that belonged to my father. I didn’t find it, but I did find an envelope of pictures that I had taken in 1965 with my Kodak Instamatic camera. I had forgotten about this picture of my dad plowing snow from our driveway. It isn’t a great picture, but it captures an aspect of his life. It also ties in to the fact that I may be shoveling snow later today. We have a couple of inches of new snow so far.


Shortly after I posted the musical memories post about Sergio Mendes, I realized that I hadn’t talked much about the music or about Sergio Mendes. I had concentrated on the female vocalists. I admit to a penchant for female vocalists. I lost track of the music itself.

I bought my first Brasil ’66 album on the last day of school, my freshman year at IU. Dad drove down to pick me up because freshmen and sophomores were not allowed to have cars on campus. Anyway, I bought the album, but I hadn’t heard it yet because I had already packed up my stereo.

On the way home we drove through Lafayette, where I now live. Dad wanted to stop and have a sandwich and a beer, so he stopped at the Tick Tock Tavern on the north side of town. He liked the food there. I couldn’t go in because I was not yet 21. So I sat in the car, looking the record album, and wishing he would hurry up so I could get home and listen to the music. He wasn’t in there long, but it seemed like a very long time to me. He brought me a hamburger (quite good as I recall) and we were back on the road.

Let me talk (finally) about the music. Without talking about specific songs, I have to say that I loved it. The songs were more slickly arranged than the trio work he had done earlier. As always, he piano backing to the vocalists was great. His occasional short solos brought even more life to the tunes. The other band members, especially the percussionists, were driving the melodies. There was certainly nothing to complain about with the song selection. I would have preferred Wanda de Sah as lead vocalist, but Lani Hall was an adequate replacement. I  fact, the arrangements were geared towards her vocal style rather than de Sah’s.

I’ve read that some people think Mendes sold out when he started recording for A&M. Maybe he did to an extent, but what made financial sense to him brought bossa nova and other Latin rhythms to a large audience in the U.S. Some of us would have been fans anyway because we had heard it before many other people, but without Mais Que Nada on top forty radio, many young people would never have heard the music.

Artists who stay in one groove and don’t explore and change, never grow. Certainly there was a loss of raw energy with the changes he made, but those who became hooked with the A&M records could go back and root out his older work. Heck, I just found Wanda de Sah’s album Softly on Amazon last week. And it is good.