For only the second time in the 13-year history of the Latin Grammy Awards, the Latin Recording Academy is honoring a Brazilian artist as its Person of the Year: Caetano Veloso, the renowned musician, writer, filmmaker, thought leader and co-founder of the tropicalia style that became a veritable cultural revolution in Brazil.
Veloso will be fetted Nov. 15 in Las Vegas. The celebration follows his 70th birthday (he was born Aug. 7, 1942) and the Oct. 22 release of "A Tribute to Caetano Veloso", a collection of covers by the likes of Jeff Beck, Chrissie Hynde, Seu Jorge and Jorge Drexler.
Earlier this year, Veloso released "Live at Carnegie Hall" -- which documented a special collaborative concert with friend David Byrne in 2004 -- and "Especial", an album with fellow Brazilians Gilberto Gil and Ivete Sangalo.
An eight-time Latin Grammy winner and two-time mainstream Grammy winner, Veloso grew up in Salvador in Bahia and started singing at local clubs while in college along with his sister, Maria Bethania.
By the mid-'60s, he was profoundly vested in Brazil's popular music revolution. A close friend of Gil, Veloso became a young flag bearer for tropicalismo, the music and cultural movement that meshed foreign influences like rock and psychedelia with traditional Brazilian culture and rhythms; provocative, socially conscious lyrics with Brazilian pop. Tropicalia linked high and low culture, rural and urban, good and bad taste, and the movement became a polarizing phenomenon. The 1968 album "Tropicalia: Ou Panis et Circencis" was a landmark statement for the new genre and featured Veloso, Gil, Torquato Neto, Os Mutantes, Gal Costa and Tom Ze.
By 1969, following the release of his first solo album, Veloso was arrested for "disrespecting the national anthem and the Brazilian flag." Facing additional jail time, he and Gil went to England where they lived in self-imposed exile for four years. Veloso returned to Brazil in 1972, resumed his touring career and established himself as not only a musician but also an observer and critic of culture in general, penning books, articles and commentary.
A relentless explorer of music and culture, Veloso has incorporated multiple movements into his work, generating constant debate even as his commercial success grew and transcended Brazil's borders. Stateside, he has played to sold-out crowds for years.
The success initially mystified Veloso, as he once told the New York Times: "In the beginning, I thought it was completely impossible, because my songs were not very well recorded, and I was convinced that people would have to speak Portuguese and be familiar with the historical, political and cultural situation of Brazil to be interested," he said. "I still don't know why anyone else would be drawn to what I do."
As the Latin Recording Academy's Person of the Year, Veloso joins the ranks of past honorees Gloria Estefan, Julio Iglesias, Emilio Estefan Jr., Placido Domingo and Carlos Santana, among others.