Carlos Do Carmo

Carlos do Carmo, stage name of Carlos do Carmo da Ascensão de Almeida (Lisbon, December 21, 1939 – Lisbon, January 1, 2021), was a Portuguese fado singer and performer.

Childhood and youth

Son of Alfredo de Almeida, a book dealer and later owner of the fado house O Faia, and his wife, the fado singer Lucília do Carmo, Carlos do Carmo was born at the Magalhães Coutinho Maternity Hospital and spent his childhood in the Bica neighborhood.

He studied at College Passos Manuel, before leaving for Switzerland at the age of 15. In this country he attended the Institut auf dem Rosenberg, a German college located in São Galo, for three years, having the opportunity to study foreign languages, becoming fluent in French, English, German, Italian and Spanish. Then, back in Geneva, he obtained a degree in Hotel Management. Although independent, he was always a supporter of the Portuguese Communist Party.

The 60s — the artistic career

Employed at the National Shipping Company, the death of his father, in 1962, led Carlos do Carmo to take over the management of O Faia, which, over the years, had become a popular Fado house in the capital. N’ O Faia began to perform for the house’s most frequent friends and clients, until in 1964 he definitively embraced his artistic career.

Carlos do Carmo emerged as a fado singer after recording with Mário Simões a version of Loucura, a fado by Júlio de Sousa, also interpreted by Lucília do Carmo. The fado singer claims that he chose Loucura because it was the only fado he knew the lyrics to. Although he was used to listening to Fado since he was a child, either in his mother’s voice or in the voice of other interpreters, such as the popular fadistas he heard in Lisbon’s verbenas or the artists who passed through O Faia — Alfredo Marceneiro, Maria Teresa de Noronha or Carlos Ramos, to name the ones he most admired — the fado singer would later confess that, at that time, he was far from the traditional song of Lisbon. At the threshold of adolescence, he had acquired a taste for the music of Luiz Gonzaga and Dorival Caymmi, until he became fascinated, a little later, by Frank Sinatra and Jacques Brel. Moreover, the fact that he spent several years abroad also contributed to Carlos do Carmo’s departure from Fado.

The interpretation recorded with the Mário Simões quartet is a challenge to the traditional way of interpreting Fado. Carlos do Carmo sings this theme accompanied by piano, bass, electric guitar and a choir of female voices. The track began to air regularly on the radio and, as a result of its success, the debuting fado singer released an EP in his own name the following year: Carlos do Carmo with Orquestra de Joaquim Luiz Gomes.

In 1967, Casa da Imprensa awarded him the Best Interpreter award and, in 1970, awarded him the Pozal Domingues award for Best Record of the Year, for his first album, entitled O Fado de Carlos do Carmo, edited by Alvorada in 1969.

It would be the beginning of one of the most exemplary careers of the Portuguese music scene, in general, and of Fado, in particular.

Still in 1964, he married Maria Judite de Sousa Leal, with whom he had three children, Cila do Carmo, Becas do Carmo and Gil do Carmo.

70s — Ary dos Santos, RTP Song Festival and Um Homem na Cidade (A Men In The City)

At the beginning of the 1970s, Carlos do Carmo recorded several EPs and LPs, such as O Fado em Duas Gerações, Carlos do Carmo and Lucília do Carmo, Por Morrer uma Andorinha or Carlos do Carmo.

However, after some television appearances, he appeared in 1972 as a producer and presenter of a weekly program on RTP: Convívio Musical, where some of the great names of Portuguese and international music pass.

Subsequent to the 25th of April, in the Festival RTP da Canção of 1976, in which it adopted a different model than usual, he was the only interpreter. He sang eight songs, previously selected by a jury of two elements: Manuel da Fonseca and Pedro Tamen. The songs were In Your Poem (José Luís Tinoco), Novo Fado Joyful (José Carlos Ary dos Santos/ Fernando Tordo), Os wolves and nobody (José Luís Tinoco), Maria-criada, Maria-senhora (Tozé Brito), Flor de verde pine (Manuel Alegre/ José Niza), Where do you live (Joaquim Pessoa/ Paulo de Carvalho) and Estrela da tarde (Ary dos Santos/ Fernando Tordo) — among these would be Flor de Verde Pinho, a poem by Manuel Alegre and music by José Niza, the song most voted by the public and, consequently, the one he performed on behalf of Portugal in the 21st Eurovision Song Contest. The participation would set the tone for the recording of the album Uma Canção para a Europa.

A mandatory reference in the history of Fado and in the career of Carlos do Carmo was the album Um Homem na Cidade, released in 1977 by Trova. In this album, he interprets poems by José Carlos Ary dos Santos, combined with a set of innovative musical compositions, from authors as diverse as José Luís Tinoco, Paulo de Carvalho, António Victorino de Almeida, Frederico de Brito, Fernando Tordo, Joaquim Luís Gomes, Mário Moniz Pereira or Martinho d’Assunção.

Indeed, Carlos do Carmo owes a large part of his successes to Ary dos Santos, including Um homem na cidade (lyrics by Ary dos Santos and music by José Luís Tinoco),
Lisboa, Menina e Moça (lyrics by Ary dos Santos).
Santos, Joaquim Pessoa and Fernando Tordo, and music by Paulo de Carvalho),
Estrela da Tarde (Ary dos Santos/ Fernando Tordo),
Novo Feliz Fado (Ary dos Santos/ Fernando Tordo),
The chestnut man (Ary dos Santos/ Paulo de Carvalho),
O Amarelo da Carris (Ary dos Santos/ José Luís Tinoco),
Autumn Sonata (Ary dos Santos/ Fernando Tordo),
Fado varina (Ary dos Santos/ Mário Moniz Pereira),
Fado do Campo Grande (Ary dos Santos/ António Victorino de Almeida),
Ballad for an old lady (Ary dos Santos/ Martinho d’Assunção) or Minor (Ary dos Santos/Fado das Horas).

But the fado singer will bring, throughout his career, several new authors to Fado, such as José Luís Tinoco (In your poem, Os lobos e nada),
António Lobo Antunes (Song of Sadness Alegre),
José Saramago (Aprendamos o rite ),
Manuela de Freitas (Fado Penélope),
Vasco Graça Moura (Born like this, grew up like this),
Nuno Júdice (Lisboa Oxalá),
Maria do Rosário Pedreira (Ends loose, Come, don’t be late),
Fernando Pinto do Amaral (Fado da Saudade) or Júlio Pomar (Fado from 112).

1980s — live performances and international career

Since his performances at O ​​Faia, initially informally for friends, there have been live performances by Carlos do Carmo. His first tours took place in the early 1970s, with shows in Angola, the USA and Canada and, in 1973, he made his debut in Brazil, singing alongside Elis Regina, at Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro.

From 1979, when he left the management of O Faia, he intensified his presentations abroad. His passages at the Olympia in Paris, at the Opera in Frankfurt, at the Opera in Wiesbaden, at the Canecão in Rio de Janeiro, at the Hotel Savoy in Helsinki, at the Queen’s Theater in The Hague, at the Theater in Saint Petersburg, at the Place des Arts in Montreal, at the Tivoli in Copenhagen or at the Latin America Memorial in São Paulo, are very high moments in the fado singer’s career. In Portugal, he emphasizes his presentations in places such as the coliseums of Lisbon and Porto, the Casino Estoril, the Centro Cultural de Belém, the Jerónimos Monastery or the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. In an interview with the newspaper A Capital, he reveals that: (…) singing is an act of pleasure, but above all on stage, which is a constant game of seduction, an indescribable exchange of feelings and emotions (…).

Indeed, Carlos do Carmo’s international career owes a lot to his time at the Olympia in Paris, where he performed for the first time on October 11 and 12, 1980. The debut was successful and the fado singer recalls the moment he played the song La Valse A Mille Temps, by Jacques Brel: «The room collapsed!» (cf. Carlos do Carmo: A Man in the World, in RTP Play). This was followed by his first performance at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, in 1982, where he was so successful that the recording of the show was released on disk and he returned to perform in the following two years.

Another remarkable fact in this decade and which marks the record of Carlos do Carmo was the release of Um Homem no País, in 1984, again a project based on poems by Ary dos Santos, which stood out as the first edition in CD format of a Portuguese artist.

1990s to 2021 — new originals and connection to new generations of Fado

In the early 1990s, he had an accident during a show in Bordeaux, falling from the stage to the front row of the audience, a fall from a height equivalent to one floor, which forced him to make a long recovery. In March 1991, he made his comeback at Casino Estoril, presenting a show entitled Vim Para o Fado e Fica.

He returned to television, with a program with his own name — Carlos do Carmo — broadcast in more than thirty broadcasts between 1997 and 1998, where he talks with several guests, on topics ranging from Fado, to music in general, but also other artistic strands.

In 2007, Carlos do Carmo presented, at the Fado Museum, an album entitled À Noite, which brought together unpublished texts by Nuno Júdice, Fernando Pinto do Amaral, Maria do Rosário Pedreira, Júlio Pomar, Luís Represas, José Luís Tinoco and José Manuel Mendes , for traditional fado music by Armandinho, Joaquim Campos and Alfredo Marceneiro.

In 2010, he joined the pianist and composer Bernardo Sassetti to make the album Carlos do Carmo & Bernardo Sassetti, where he recreated remarkable songs by other interpreters, among them Cantigas do Maio (Zeca Afonso), Lisboa que amanhece (Sérgio Godinho), Porto sense (Rui Veloso), Foi por ela (Fausto Bordalo Dias), Quand On N’a Que L’Amour (Jacques Brel) or Gracias a la vida (Violeta Parra).

Since the beginning of the 2000s, in a close relationship with the new generations of Fado, he has promoted joint performances with new fadistas. This was the case with Mariza; — Casino Estoril Fado Gala, on June 8, 2004, for example — or Camané; closing concert of the Festas de Lisboa, in the gardens of Torre de Belém, in 2006, for example.

These connections would be reinforced with the edition, in 2014, of the album Fado é amor, presented that year at Coliseu dos Recreios, where the fado singer presented songs recorded with Camané, Mariza, Ana Moura, Aldina Duarte, Cristina Branco, Mafalda Arnauth , Ricardo Ribeiro, Marco Rodrigues, Raquel Tavares and Carminho.

He announced on February 7, 2019 the end of stage acting. His last concerts were on October 12 at Theatro Circo, on November 2 at Coliseu do Porto and on November 9 at Coliseu dos Recreios.

He died on 1 January 2021 at Hospital de Santa Maria in Lisbon due to an aneurysm. The funeral ceremonies took place on January 4, at the Basilica da Estrela, and he was buried in the Cemitério dos Prazeres, in Lisbon.

Awards and distinctions

He was twice awarded honorary degrees by the Presidency of the Republic — at the end of the 1990s, more precisely, on September 4, 1997, President Jorge Sampaio awarded him the degree of Commander of the Order of Infante D. Henrique. Subsequently, on 28 November 2016, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa made him Grand Officer of the Order of Merit, a distinction that was presented to him at a ceremony held on 3 December 2016.

He received several other awards, attributed to his albums or his career — in 1991, Casa da Imprensa, presented him with the Prestígio award, within the scope of the Grande Noite do Fado. In 1998, SIC and Caras magazine awarded him the Golden Globe for Excellence and Merit; a distinction that had previously been awarded to Mário Soares, David Mourão-Ferreira or Ruy de Carvalho. In 2002, the album Nove Fados e Uma Canção de Amor, earned him a Globo in the category of Best Album of the Year.

In 2003, he received the José Afonso Prize, awarded by the Municipality of Amadora, following which the book Carlos do Carmo, do Fado e do Mundo, a biographical interview conducted by Viriato Teles, was published.

In 2004, the then Mayor of Lisbon, Pedro Santana Lopes, awarded him the Gold Medal of Municipal Merit, the highest.

Goya Award

In 2008, in Spain, together with the poet Fernando Pinto do Amaral, he received the prestigious Goya Prize, in the category of Best Original Song, with Fado da Saudade. The song is part of the soundtrack of the film Fados, which competed for the 2008 edition of what are considered the Spanish Oscars. However, doubts were raised about the true authorship of this fado.

Latin Grammy

In 2014, along with soprano Elisabete Matos, he became the second Portuguese artist to win a Grammy, obtained in the Lifetime Achievement category, awarded only to artists for the body of work they produced throughout their career and not due to to the success they achieved with a particular song or album. In the same year, on November 19, the fado singer receives the Latin Grammy for Career at the Hollywood MGM in Las Vegas.

Following the award, he is once again honored by the Lisbon City Council, which awarded him, by António Costa, a new Medal of Municipal Merit.

Rádio Comercial also paid him a unique tribute by producing a video in which 35 Portuguese singers from different generations sing Lisboa Menina e Moça, among them Paulo de Carvalho, Jorge Palma, Rui Reininho, Camané, Mariza, Aurea, Ana Moura, Tiago Bettencourt or David Fonseca.

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