Brazilian Profile: Roberto Carlos Posted by Rachel on Apr 29, 2009 in Brazilian Profile
Though Brazil is known for its samba and bossa nova musicians worldwide, it may come as a surprise that Brazil’s most successful singer is actually a Barry Manilow-style crooner. In his fifty year career, Roberto Carlos has sold over 100 million albums, more than any Brazilian or Latin American musician.
Born in 1941, Roberto grew up in the countryside of Espirito Santo, one of four children in a humble household. He began playing the piano and the guitar early in life, and began singing when he was nine. He suffered an accident and had to have his leg amputated, and has been using a prosthetic leg ever since. When he was a teenager, he moved to Niteroi, in Rio de Janeiro, where he first came in contact with rock and MPB. Initially, he formed a band with a group of friends, called the Sputniks, but began his solo career shortly after, singing samba and bossa nova.
In the 1960s, Roberto segwayed into rock, and recorded several successful albums and became a TV star, hosting shows on TV Record. Then, in the 1970s, he moved on to “romantic” music (crooning), when his career took off abroad. He sang for the Pope in Mexico in 1979, during a live broadcast watched by millions around the world. He began to focus on his international career in the 1980s, when he began recording in Spanish, Italian, French, and English. He won a Grammy in 1988 for Best Latin American Singer, and beat the Beatles’ Latin American record sales in 1994, surpassing 70 million records sold in the region.
Roberto got married in 1995, to a teacher named Maria Rita. But tragically, she was diagnosed with cancer three years later, and died in 1999. Though his success continued into the new millennium, he had to deal with other problems. In 2004, he was treated for OCD, which had led him to some odd habits and refuse to sing some of his most successful songs. In 2006, a tell-all biography about Roberto’s life was published without his consent or acknowledgment, and he sued the publisher, who was ordered by the court to remove the books from bookstores nationwide.
Roberto recently celebrated the fifty year anniversary of his career in his hometown of Cachoeiro de Itapemirim. He currently lives in Rio de Janeiro’s Urca neighborhood.