Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Brasil '65 -- "So Nice (Summer Samba)" (1965)

Should it be you and me?
I can see it could be nice

I think too much.  I plan too much.  I try to explain things rather than just accepting them.  

Worst of all, I try to make things happen rather than allowing them to happen.  (How foolish and futile a strategy that is!)

Sometimes you just have to trust in God or destiny or kismet or luck or coincidence or whatever you want to call the force that runs the universe and everything in it.

You may think that you are in control of things, but you aren't. 

Of course, that doesn't mean you aren't responsible for your actions, and that your actions don't have important consequences.  

But the most important moment in your life by far was the moment of your conception -- and you had absolutely nothing to do with that, did you?

Think about it for a moment.  The average human male ejaculates about 180 million sperm cells at a time.  (You fellas out there are feeling pretty damn proud of yourselves right now, aren't you?)  So the odds against you becoming you was 180 million to one.

The Fates: Atropos, Lachesis, and Clotho
Actually, it's even worse than that.  Fifty years ago -- which corresponds more closely to the time when I and most of my friends were conceived -- human males ejaculated an average of 380 million sperm.

But is the moment of your conception really the most significant moment of your life?  Is it any more important than the moment that your mother was conceived, your father was conceived, each of your grandparents was conceived, etc., etc., etc.?  

If all that is too biological for you to be comfortable with, think about this.  What were the odds that your mother and father would meet and decide to get married?  Weren't there about a zillion things -- most of them tiny little details -- that could have prevented that from happening?

A word to the wise . . .
It's rather terrifying, isn't it?  The fact that you and I exist is an almost incomprehensibly unlikely event.  (I'm rather fond of my own existence, so I don't care to contemplate all this too closely.) 

Forget about the odds against each of us existing in the first place.  Think about the most critical events of your life, and how easily they could have turned out differently -- if you had made some mundane decision that resulted in your being at a different place at the critical time, or at the critical place but at a different time.  Even a few seconds one way or the other might have made all the difference.

Does that mean your life is a product of mere coincidence?  Of course not.

An astronomer once said about an unusual event he had observed, "This is just too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence."

The poet Byron was also a skeptic when it came to coincidence:

A "strange coincidence," to use a phrase
By which such things are settled nowadays.

Novelist Vladimir Nabokov had this to say about coincidence:

A certain man once lost a diamond cufflink in the wide blue sea, and twenty years later, on the exact day . . . he was eating a large fish -- but there was no diamond inside.  That’s what I like about coincidence.

(I don't know what the hell it means either, but it's a pretty good story.)

Yuuko Ichihara
I'll give the last word on this subject to Yuuko Ichihara, who is a fictional manga character:

There is no such thing as coincidence in this world.  There is only the inevitable.

Whether coincidence is what one writer has defined as "God's way of remaining anonymous" or whether it is simply coincidence may not matter as much as the fact that you and I can't do anything about it.  Things are going to happen to you that are beyond your control.  You'd better learn to roll with the punches when that happens -- or even to embrace it.

I learned an important lesson while choosing a song to write about today.  

It all started when I was outside shoveling snow and ice off my sidewalk and driveway this afternoon.  OF COURSE I had my iPod and was listening to music as I shoveled.

To be specific, I was listening to The Very Best of the Arbors.  Don't even try to pretend that you've heard of the Arbors, because I know you haven't.  Until recently, I knew only a tiny, tiny bit about the Arbors and I have mad skills when it comes to this sh*t -- and you do not.  (Don't worry your pretty little heads about who the hell the Arbors are, OK?  I'm going to be telling you a lot more about them in the very near future, so just take a chill pill until then.)

Anyway, I'm listening to an Arbors song -- for the very first time, I might add -- and I make a snap decision to feature it on 2 or 3 lines.  In fact, I made a snap decision to feature it in the very next 2 or 3 lines.

A couple of hours later, I'm sitting at the computer, scrolling through iTunes until I get to my Arbors songs.  I don't know the name of the song I had been listening to, so I listen to brief snippets of several Arbors tracks and eventually find "So Nice (Summer Samba)."

Then I do a little research on that song, which turns out to have been written in 1964 by two Brazilian brothers.  (The guy who wrote the English lyrics was Norman Gimbel, who also wrote the English lyrics to "The Girl from Ipanema.")  

An instrumental version of the song recorded in 1966 by the Walter Wanderly Trio, who called it "Summer Samba (So Nice)" instead of vice versa made it to #26 on the Billboard "Hot 100."  That same year, Johnny Mathis, Vikki Carr, and Connie Francis all recorded it, and one source says that all three of their versions were on one or another Billboard chart at the same time.  Close to 200 artists altogether have covered the song.

I chose to feature the original recording of the song -- performed by the Sergio Mendes Trio and singer Wanda de Sah (sometimes known as Wanda Sá) under the name Brasil '65 -- in part because it was the original version but mostly because it's a really good version.  

So I started to write.  I had several reasons for deciding to feature the song.  One of the less significant reasons I did so was that it was cold and icy outdoors -- which made it a good time to write about a song titled (or subtitled) "Summer Samba."  (That's the way the mind of 2 or 3 lines works, boys and girls.)

But later in the day, I was listening to the Arbors album again while walking my dog when I suddenly realized that the song I had originally decided to feature wasn't "So Nice (Summer Samba)" but another Arbors cover of a vaguely similar-sounding Brazilian song, "Mas Que Nada (Pow Pow Pow)."

Sergio Mendes with his wife, singer
Gracinha Leporace in 1971
By an odd coincidence -- assuming there is such a thing -- Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 (which was Brasil '65 with a reshuffled lineup) also recorded that song. 

When I figured out that I had started to write about the wrong song, did I go back and start all over again?  Of course not.  

After all, God or destiny or kismet or luck or coincidence or whatever you want to call the force that runs the universe and everything in it brought this song to my attention.  I didn't get to it by the shortest and most direct route, but I did get there.  Far be it from me to question such things.

And you know what?  It turns out that this is a wonderful little song -- a breath of balmy Brazilian air on a bitterly cold day.

Wanda de Sah
The performance is relaxed and effortless and altogether charming, especially Wanda de Sah's vocals.  (Check out that delightful accent.)  The lyrics are simple and straightforward, and seem to come straight from the heart.

The singer doesn't ask for very much:

Someone to hold me tight
That would be very nice
Someone to love me right
That would be very nice . . .
Someone to take my heart
And give his heart to me
Someone who's ready to
Give love a start with me
Oh yes -- that would be so nice!

Indeed it would.  

So what do you say?  Shall we give it a try?  

Should it be you and me?  
I can see it could be nice!

Here's "So Nice (Summer Samba)":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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