Sergio Mendes Documentary, New Album In the Works: Exclusive

Andrew Southam
Sergio Mendes

A feature documentary about Sergio Mendes and a new album are in the works for 2018, Billboard has learned. The companion record on the Concord label will include new songs co-written with younger songwriters, and versions of the Brazilian maestro’s classics featuring intergenerational guests, with some tracks co-produced by will.i.am.

John Scheinfeld, whose past work includes The U.S. vs. John Lennon and documentaries about Harry Nilsson and John Coltrane, is directing the film.

“I am attracted to stories of artists who go their own way,” Scheinfeld tells Billboard. “Who achieve success on their terms. Sergio has done that and more...For more than 50 years Sergio has been making inspired music that inspires people with its inherent joy, warmth and happiness.”

Mendes is renowned as the man who put go-go boots on Brazilian music and brought it to the world with his evergreen hit “Mas Que Nada." With his band Brasil '66, he recorded a string of soft samba and groovy bossa nova versions of English-language pop songs that made him a household name. Forty years later, Mendes brought “Mas Que Nada” (written and originally recorded by Jorge Ben Jor) to a new generation when he recorded it with The Black Eyed Peas for his will.i.am-produced album Timeless.

“Of course my personal musical journey is related to a very important period of Brazilian music,” the 76-year-old Mendes said via an exuberant email from Brazil, where the film is in production. Monday (April 3) he is rehearsing with musicians for one of the documentary’s performance sequences. “When I began my life as a musician, it was the early days of bossa nova, which was the sound that would seduce and enchant the world, making Brazilian music internationally known! And the beauty of it is that, as I work today with a young generation of brilliant musicians such as will.i.am, John Legend, India Arie, Jill Scott, Justin Timberlake, etc., they are still seduced by those beautiful melodies and rhythms, which remain as magical and relevant as ever!”

Mendes, a three-time Grammy winner, has recorded more than 35 albums. A longtime Los Angeles resident, he said that the film will reveal “hidden facets” of his life and career, taking him back to his hometown -- Niterói -- across the bay from Rio de Janeiro, allowing him to revisit his childhood and adolescence.

“I used to play soccer at the beach, swim in the ocean, play with marbles, etc.,” he recalls. “And later, when I grew up I would cross the bay to go to Rio by ferry to work with my first bands in the early ’60s...we will visit many places from my early years, which will bring some surprises for my newer (and even some of my older) fans.”

Like many current Mendes followers, Scheinfeld first moved to his music as a kid at home, listening to his mother’s Brasil ’66 records. He met the Brazilian legend after Concord Music Group’s Glen Barros and John Burk approached him about making the documentary, an idea prompted by the recent 50th anniversary of Brasil ’66.

“Personally, as he’s not the lead singer, nor the type of flamboyant front man we see in many a rock band, Sergio is something of a mystery,” says Scheinfeld, who reports that he and Mendes have become good friends. “Our film will dig deep to enable the audience to get to know him as a three-dimensional being. As the narrative unfolds, we will reveal that what makes him unique as a human being is what has shaped the art.”

The film will include archival footage and family photos, interviews with Mendes’ contemporaries and artists he influenced, and, of course, music from throughout his career.

“Professionally, his is a remarkable story of innovation, reinvention and impact,” Scheinfeld adds. “Not only did he create a fresh and unique sound, but he has continued to reinvent and re-imagine it from decade to decade and stayed relevant. Along the way, he has influenced subsequent generations of musicians, including some of today’s biggest stars.  Although it’s been 50 years, Sergio’s drive, curiosity and creativity has him still looking forward. How many artists can claim all this as part of their legacy?”