Music producer João Carlos Botezelli, better known as Pelão, died early this Wednesday afternoon (1st). Responsible for bringing samba giants like Cartola and Adoniran Barbosa to the studio for the first time, he was 78 years old and had a heart attack.
Born in São José do Rio Preto, in the interior of São Paulo, in October 1942, Pelão marked his name in the history of Brazilian culture when, tired of politics, he decided to make a revolution through music. In his belief, recording the samba dancers from the morro singing their own compositions —many already well-known in the voices of other performers— would be his greatest contribution.
With this idea in mind, Pelão convinced record company executives that recording records by people like Cartola, even in his old age, would be a good idea. The Mangueira composer only entered the studio to be recorded in 1974, when he was 65 years old, taken by Pelão.
In an interview with sheet, Celso de Campos Júnior —author of the book “A Revolution for Music”, about Pelão— recalls that the samba musician no longer believed that he would release an album. “Dona Zica [mulher de Cartola] he said that he didn’t play the guitar anymore. They called him to do a show for mixaria, that’s when they paid. I was waiting for the end of life.”
In addition to Cartola’s now classic album, Pelão recorded works by Nelson Cavaquinho, Carlos Cachaça, a tribute to Donga and Nelson Sargento, among others. Adoniran Barbosa, another recorded on disc for the first time by Pelão, even said that the producer was “the Pedro Álvares Cabral” of his career.
Adoniran had already recorded in the 1940s and 1950s, but only 78 rpm singles. Pelão took the sambista, then 64 years old, to the studio in 1974, to record for the first time classics such as “Saudosa Maloca” and “As Mariposas”, and then recorded the São Paulo artist’s next album —today, both albums are considered classics.
In the studio, Pelão used to dispense with pompous productions to record the samba dancers as they sounded in their daily lives. “It was really their sound,” the producer told the sheet. “Nelson’s magnificent guitar. Cartola’s fantastic lyrics in his voice. Damn, it was the sound of an era. Tambourine, cuíca, deaf, tambourine. Everything played as it was. It was prettier.”
But in addition to the technical merits, Pelão had a human role that was decisive for the success of his productions. He was friends with the artists he worked with and knew how they sounded when they sang, on the hill, among friends.
“You have to know about them, their way”, said Pelão. “Don’t talk nonsense. Know about their lives, where the callus tightened. And all this I tried to know before arriving for real. And then it worked.”
During his performance as a producer, Pelão collected fights with record company executives. He said that they were aware of the work of the samba dancers, but preferred not to record “because they are bums”, and that he even heard from Manoel Barenbein, then director of Phonogram, that “this is not an asylum”.
In the introduction to the book “A Revolution for Music”, Aldir Blanc, a friend of Pelão, writes that the producer waged “real wars against blind women who ran the multinational recording companies”. And also that their contribution to culture is “very high and will last forever”, because “appreciation is priceless: there is no money to pay, not just the services to our music, but the generosity and selflessness with which they were rendered”.
Pelão’s funeral will take place on Thursday (2), at 11 am, at the Cemitério Gethsemani, in the São Paulo neighborhood of Morumbi, but there will be no wake.