5 Things to Know About Vinicius de Moraes, Inspiration Behind Rio's Olympic Mascot

Vinicius de Moraes
Agencia Estado via AP Images

Vinicius de Moraes photographed in Rio de Janeiro on Jan. 13, 1972. 

The late poet & lyricist co-wrote "The Girl From Ipanema," for starters.

Vinicius, the official mascot of the Rio Olympics, is a funky-looking cat, named after esteemed Brazilian poet and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes, a proud Carioca who died in 1980 at 66.

Whatever ills the Rio Olympics have been going through, hats off to organizers for celebrating music, in a most joyful and profound way with their mascot. Because Vinicius de Moraes wasn’t just any composer. This renaissance man -- poet, lyricist, playwright, Bohemian, diplomat -- not only penned the lyrics to “Girl From Ipanema,” which some say is the most recorded song of all time, but he also collaborated with Brazil’s greatest musicians in some of the best-known bossa nova songs in history. 

Here are five things to know about Vinicius: 

1. Legend has it that de Moraes and Tom Jobim wrote the fabled “Garota de Ipanema” (Girl From Ipanema) on a napkin while having drinks at a bar near Ipanema Beach in 1962. “Garota” was indeed inspired by a beauty de Moraes would often see walking along the beach (“She sways like a poem”), 18-year-old Heloisa Pinheiro, who is still quite lovely at 71 years old.

2. He wrote the play Orfeu da Conceição, which set the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice in a modern-day Rio Carnival. The play, in turn, was made into the Oscar-winning film Black Orpheus, whose soundtrack included “Manhã de Carnaval” and “A Felicidade,” the former written by de Moraes and Tom Jobim. 

3. De Moraes wrote many hits with Tom Jobim. Aside from “Garota,” they include “Insensatez,” translated to English as “How Insensitive.” The long list of artists who have recorded the song include Shirley Bassey, Sinead O’Connor, the Monkees and Olivia Newton-John.

4. In the late '70s, de Moraes took to performing his songs while seated at a table, a bottle of whisky by his side, and accompanied by his friend, guitarist Toquinho. De Moraes and Toquinho recorded and performed together for over a decade.

5. De Moraes indeed loved his whiskey and once called it “man’s best friend.” He died in Rio at age 66 with his eighth and last wife by his side.  De Moraes is, aptly, buried in Rio.


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