She may be tall and tan and lovely, but "The Girl From Ipanema" isn't so young anymore. Fifty years ago, though, the song came from out of nowhere, suddenly putting Brazil onto the pop culture map and turning bossa nova into a craze, reports the Wall Street Journal in a look at the song's endurance. Inspired by a real teenager, Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto, that composer Antônio Carlos Jobim and poet Vinícius de Moraes remembered, today it is the second-most recorded song of all time (behind the Beatles' "Yesterday").
"It's the oldest story in the world," says Norman Gimbel, who wrote the English lyrics. "The beautiful girl goes by, and men pop out of manholes and fall out of trees and are whistling and going nuts, and she just keeps going by. That's universal." First released in Brazil by the late Pery Ribeiro as "Garota de Ipanema," in 1963 US music execs asked for an English version, bringing in Stan Getz on sax, João Gilberto on guitar and Portuguese vocals, and Gilberto's wife, Astrud, on the English lyrics. "To the layperson, 'The Girl From Ipanema' sounds like 'a nice song,' " says a Brazilian-American guitarist. "But to the trained ear it is perfection." As for the girl herself, today known as Helo Pinheiro, she is 66 and a celebrity in Brazil. (Read more The Girl From Ipanema stories.)