Ivan Lins - Biography
By Nick Castro
Ivan Lins is one of Brazil's most famous singers, songwriters and pianists. He was born, Ivan Guimarães Lins, in 1945 in Rio de Janeiro As a child he went to Massachusetts with his father, who was a naval engineer, and was doing his graduate studies at M.I.T.. This move proved to be hugely influential on the young Lins as he became obsessed with American music. He was a rambunctious youth and his parents, in an attempt to coax him, would keep him inundated with a steady stream of records, that Lins would devour and sing to constantly. He grew up with the sounds of Disney records and the songs of Stephen Foster. Once his family moved back to Brazil, when Lins was six years old, he began to study piano ferociously. Although Lins was a talented musician, he did not consider a career in music until his college years. He had even considered a career in sport prior to thinking seriously about music. The exciting music scene of Brazil was having its influence on the young Lins as well though and soon enough he was dabbling in songwriting and performing.
A Major change in Lins' life was when he began a collaboration with famed Brazilian singer, Elis Regina. He wrote the song "Madalena" for her in 1970. Soon, jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald heard the song and fell in love with it. She recorded her version of the song and this opened the doors for Lins to reach a wider audience with his music. He was getting steady work performing live as well, being hired by international clubs and festivals. Lins released his first solo album, Agora (1970 - Forma), which contained many of his own compositions, including "Salve Salve", "Tanauê ou Se um Indio Fôsse Consumido Pela Civilização" and "O Amor é o Meu Pais". This album was well received in Brazil and he soon released his second album, Deixa O Trem Seguir (1971 - Forma), which again put Lins' compositional skills on display. This can best be heard on his songs "Que Pena Que Eu Tenho De Vocé", "Onde Batem As Ondas Do Teu Olhar" and "Oratório No Mar Branco".
His third album, Quem Sou Eu (1972 - Phonogram), to a growing audience. This was the album that piqued the interest of the RCA label that would help Lins to reach a much wider audience. He released his Modo Livre (1974 - RCA) album with the help of Wagner Tiso on organ and Brazilian singer, Arthur Verocai. On this album Lins does a fine version of Caeano Veloso's "Avarandado" as well as a slew of his own compositions like the album's opener "Rei Do Carnaval". It was the song "Abre Alas" though that would prove to be his first major hit.
Lins was also hosting his own television show in Brazil, along with fellow Brazilian songwriters Aldir Blanc and Gonzaguinha. Ivan Lins released his next record, Chama Acesa (1975 - RCA), with the songs "Sorriso de Mágoa" and "Lenda do Carmo", which he wrote with Vitor Martins. His album Somos Todos Iguais Nesta Noite (1977 - EMI) is considered one his classic albums, and by many, his masterpiece. He is assisted by Gilson Peranzzetta, on the album, who utilizes the sounds of many different instruments including synthesizer, accordion and electric piano. Lins also hires musicians to play the bandolin, an instrument similar to the mandolin, and gaita, a type of Spanish bagpipes. Lins followed this album up with Nos Dias De Hoje (1978 - EMI). This newest album was a collection of songs written by Lins and his longtime songwriting partner Vitor Lins. They had a series of hit songs from the album including "Bandeira Do Divino" and "Nos Dias de Hoje". The songs "Cartomante" and "Aos Nossos Filhos" were also hits for Elis Regina. This newest record also marked a turning point for Lins, creatively.
Lins' last album of the 70's, A Noite (1979 - EMI), produced some of Lins' most famous songs including "Comecar de Novo" and "Velas", which won a Grammy Award when recorded by Quincy Jones. Jones began to champion Lins to other jazz artists such as George Benson, who would cover Lins' "Dinorah Dinorah" for his album Give Me the Night (1980 - Warner Bros). This led Jones to seek out other gems in the Lins canon of songs, which could covered by American jazz artists. Jones would cover the song "Velas", for which he would win a Grammy Award. This caught on with other artist who began to explore Lins' compositions for their own albums. Artists such as Sarah Vaghaun and Manhattan Transer began to do Lins' material.
By the 80's Lins' name was becoming commonplace in jazz circles. He worked with a group called the Crusaders on the song "Life in the Modern World". Lins made a move to access the mainstream music fan when he recorded the English language album, Love Dance (1988 - Reprise), which featured songs such as "Who's in Love Here" and "You Moved Me to This". Producer Stewart Levine helped Lins to cultivate a smooth sound that could appeal to the American record buying public.
In the early 90's, Lins and longtime musical partner, Martins, started a record label called Velas, as a means of scouting for new artists to help develop. They released albums by artists like Chico César, Fatima Guedes, Roberto Mendes and Beth Carvalho. Velas has since become the biggest independent label in Brazil. Lins has been niminated to several Grammy Awards over his career and although his exposure to most American music fans is minimal, his influence on the music in United States can be felt over several decades.
Lins' newest albums are Cantando Historias (2005 - EMI) and Saudades de Casa (2008 - Warner Music Latina), which once again features songs written by himself and his partner, Martins, such as "Amar Assim" and " Depois Dos Temporais". The album features a lovely mix of guitars with the horn playing of Marcelo Martins.