Roberto Carlos - King Of Music In Brazil

Roberto Carlos
Roberto Carlos. Courtesy Sony BMG


April 19, 1941 in Cachoeirodo Itapemirim, Espirito Santo, Brazil

Did You Know:

Roberto Carlos lost part of his left leg in a railway accident at the age of six

Roberto Carlos came of age during a time in which Brazil was enduring a military dictatorship popularly called the ‘years of lead’. Musica Popular Brasilera (MPB) reflected the social and political climate with songs full of protest and descriptions of the dark shades of individual lives.

Elsewhere in the world, the Beatles were topping the charts with their Manchester sound and influencing Brazil’s youth movement, Jovem Guarda (Young Guard). At the helm of the Jovem Guarda, Roberto Carlos was making light, pop music and defining his generation’s musical style as well as their way of dressing, the movies they watched and their very language and behavior.

With his partner Erasmo Carlos writing the upbeat, ‘mod’ lyrics, Roberto Carlos new music was the open window that allowed a musical breeze to blow away some of Brazil’s stifling atmosphere.

Early Days:

Roberto Carlos, born Roberto Carlos Braga, cam from a lower middle-class family. A fan of Bill Haley, Elvis Presley and later the Beatles, Carlos debuted on local radio at the age of nine. His association with Erasmo Carlos started a few years later. In the late 1950s, Roberto Carlos, together with Erasmo and Tim Maia formed their first band, "the Snacks", which later became "the Sputniks".

The band performed at local celebrations as well as on television.

Bossa Nova Singer:

Influenced by Joao Gilberto, Carlos left the band to try his hand at bossa nova. His first single, "Joao and Maria / Fora de Tom" was released in 1959 but did not meet with much success. His first LP, Louco por Voce, with more of a ballad/bolero flavor, was released in 1961 but received only a slightly better reception.

Carlos released two more albums in 1963 and 1964, each of which performed a little better than the last.

Turning Point:

1965 was Carlos’ year. In a popular vote promoted by the TV show Reino de Jeventude, Carlos was elected “O Rei” – the King of Brazilian music and has retained the title ever since. It was also the year that his album, Canta Para a Juventude broke all established album sales records, surpassing the record holder, Carlos Alberto.

In September, 1965, Carlos debuted as host of the TV show Jovem Guarda, the first program produced exclusively for the Brazilian youth market.

Carlos Becomes Romantic Singer:

Carlos left Jovem Guarda in 1968, changing direction to appeal to a wider audience. Moving to romantic ballads, but still with Erasmo Carlos at his side, he became an international star, gaining popularity, awards and breaking musical sales records. During the 1970s, he was also a regular performer on both Brazilian and international television variety shows.

Brazil Music King:

By 1977, Roberto Carlos was the top selling Brazilian musical artist of all time. His 1977 hit album Falando Serio sold 2.2 million copies, while his next 10 albums all went platinum. The trend continued, and in the 1990s, Roberto Carlos sold more albums than the Beatles.

The 1990s saw a decline in Carlos' popularity, since the romantic, sentimental genre did not appeal to the younger generation. Then – in the mid-90s – retro music became chic. Carlos’ music once again gained a following among the young Brazilian rockers like Cassia Eller and Bardo Vermelho, who revived some of his Jovem Guarda hits.

Although Roberto Carlos slowed down (a little) with the death of his wife, Maria Rita in 1998, this icon of Brazilian music has come back with four new albums in the second millennium. Pra Sempre (2003) sold over a million copies the first week it was released. The next year’s Pra Sempre ao Vivo no Pacaembu won the 2005 Grammy for Best Romantic Album.

With over 40 albums spanning over 40 years, Roberto Carlos is a name known to every Brazilian and recognized worldwide wherever smooth, romantic music and lyrics are known and loved.