RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Fans from around the world honored bossa nova pioneer João Gilberto on Monday, filing past his coffin at his funeral in Rio de Janeiro.
A small string orchestra and choir performed one of Gilberto’s most famous songs, “Chega de saudade” as his body was displayed in an open casket at the entry of Rio’s Municipal Theater.
Dozens of friends and family joined in and sang along, including Gilberto’s daughter Bebel Gilberto, also a singer, who smiled and cried while turning to hug and kiss her younger sister Luisa.
Earlier Monday morning, his wife Maria do Ceu stood alongside the body as fans passed through to say their goodbyes. Gilberto’s ex-wife Claudia Faissol was also present.
Huge funeral wreaths were lined up behind Gilberto’s coffin with banners that read, “To the master of masters, João Gilberto,” and “All the love for our genius, João.” One fan stood on the steps to the theater holding up a homemade sign that read “Go with God, João Gilberto.”
“His music reminds me of my teenage years,” said Graciela de la Torre, a 67-year-old fan from Argentina. “That smooth, rhythmical tone to sing, it’s so beautiful. … We used to dance with our boyfriends to this music.”
Josef Fitz of German said Gilberto’s art “was exciting. It was a special kind of music, a new kind of music.”
Jader Cruz, a 77-year-old from Rio de Janeiro, said he’s been listening to Gilberto’s music since he was 16.
“He will stay alive inside us, he will not die, his music will not disappear,” Cruz said. “He left a mark with that strength he had, that sweetness and love he put while playing, that is unforgettable.”
Gilberto, a two-time Grammy winner, also was honored at the final of the Copa America soccer tournament held in Rio de Janeiro. Tens of thousands of fans stopped for a minute of silence for Gilberto before the game started Sunday and pop star Anitta closed her opening performance by screaming, “Light to the master, João Gilberto!”
In a joint statement, the Recording Academy and the Latin Recording Academy said that Gilberto was “an architect of bossa nova music” and that his “innovative style and master musicianship helped turn the genre into a worldwide phenomenon.”
The 88-year-old Gilberto died of natural causes July 6 at his home in Rio de Janeiro.