Firemen, João Gilberto and Columbia University

Firemen, João Gilberto and Columbia University.
Credit: Rafael Andrade/Folhapress

Anyone who’s closely followed João Gilberto’s career over the decades knows of his proclivity for unpredictable behavior. Stories abound, passing from fact to legend. Even the one about Firemen, João Gilberto and Columbia University.

It’s said that on one occasion, The Father of Bossa Nova made the six-hour drive from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo for a sold-out concert, but changed his mind when he arrived, turned the car around and drove back home.

The promoter and concert-goers found out later.

And be sure to ask any Carioca Bossa Nova fan about the story involving a secluded João Gilberto, a locked hotel room door, a pack of cigarettes and a book of matches. That one is absolutely priceless.

So it was last month, when New York’s Columbia University was set to honor João Gilberto with a special presentation for Doctorate in Music. An invitation was extended but dismissed on the day of travel to the USA by João Gilberto, who refused to open the door to his Leblon apartment for his wife, Cláudia Faissol.

Beginning to see a pattern here? Anyway, back to our story about Firemen, João Gilberto and Columbia University.

The story (which made the news in Rio de Janeiro) took a dramatic turn when Faissol called the Fire Department to gain entry. This led to accusations of kidnapping by Gilberto’s son, João Marcelo and Gilberto’s first wife, Astrud Gilberto.

“Coisa Linda”, as the song goes…

But the story doesn’t end there, according the O Globo reporter Ancelmo Gois: “Even with the absence of João Gilberto, Columbia University maintained its well-deserved homage yesterday. The announcer claimed health reasons for Gilberto’s absence, but he made a mistake: he said that João Gilberto is the author of “The Girl from Ipanema,” Bossa Nova’s most famous song… actually written by Vinícius de Moraes and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

You’d think Columbia University’s music department would know something like that wouldn’t you?