In his native Brazil, Antônio Carlos Jobim was a beloved national treasure. Known to most simply by the nickname "Tom," the pianist and songwriter was instrumental in creating bossa nova, an intoxicating blend of jazz and samba that became all the rage internationally in the late 1950s. The composer of a string of classics, Jobim was the face of Brazilian popular music for a generation.
Antônio Carlos Jobim was born into privilege as the son of a diplomat from a prominent Rio de Janeiro family, but his parents split when he was young. Resettled in Rio's stylish beachfront neighborhood of Ipanema with his mother and new stepfather, Jobim was exposed to both the earthy, African-influenced rhythms of Brazil's first homegrown pop star, Pixinguinha, and the renowned Brazilian classical composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. Attracted to the elegance of classical music, the swing of modern jazz and the hypnotic rhythms of samba, the celebratory percussion-driven music born in the streets of the favelas (Rio's poorest neighborhoods), Jobim began fusing the three influences into a distinct new style that would soon be called bossa nova (a Portuguese slang term that translates literally as "new wave"). In 1956, playwright Vinicius de Moraes tapped the 19-year-old Jobim to compose the music for his play "Orfeu de Conceição," recasting the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in the favelas during Carnaval. In 1959, French filmmaker Marcel Camus used the play as the basis of his film "Black Orpheus," including three new songs by Jobim and de Moraes alongside a score by composer Luiz Bonfá. The film, which won the 1960 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, introduced bossa nova to an international audience.
In the wake of that international success, Jobim continued to expand bossa nova's reach around the world, writing (often with de Moraes as his lyricist) many instant classics of the style and collaborating with most other major figures on Rio's burgeoning music scene, including singer Silvia Telles and guitarist João Gilberto. In 1962, Jobim began a collaboration with American saxophonist Stan Getz that took bossa nova to its greatest commercial heights with the hit album Getz/Gilberto (1964), which was comprised almost exclusively of Jobim's songs. The album featured the definitive version of Jobim's signature tune, an affectionate tribute to the neighborhood in which he grew up called "The Girl From Ipanema." The shortened single version, featuring English-language vocals by João's wife Astrud Gilberto, reached #5 on Billboard's Hot 100 and won the 1965 Grammy for Record of the Year. Jobim's own version appeared on his debut album, The Composer of Desafinado Plays (1963), alongside several of his other most beloved songs, including "Agua de Beber," "Insensatez," and "One Note Samba."
Although bossa nova's international popularity ebbed by the late '60s, Jobim continued releasing his own albums, with a trio of lushly orchestrated releases overseen by American jazz producer Creed Taylor -- Wave (1967), Stone Flower (1970) and Tide (1970) -- having the most international success. Jobim also continued his collaborations with his fellow Brazilian performers, most notably singer Elis Regina; their 1974 album Elis and Tom is considered a pinnacle of both performers' careers. Jobim also worked with American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and with Frank Sinatra, with whom he recorded the best-selling album Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim (1967). A follow-up entitled Sinatra Jobim was recorded in 1970 but shelved, with several tracks appearing the following year on Sinatra and Company. Though his output slowed in the latter half of the 1970s, Jobim continued performing and recording until his death from complications of bladder cancer on December 8, 1994. In recognition of the composer's reach in popularizing Brazilian music around the world, the city of Rio de Janeiro renamed its airport Galeão-Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport in 1999; Jobim had mentioned the airport by name in his song "Samba de Avião."