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All right, so my letter was a failure. I can’t say I was really expecting anything different; by the time the announcement that João Gilberto had canceled the tour finally came, I could only laugh. I’d been expecting it for so long that, at this stage of the game, having to go to São Paulo and back on Sunday would have been both highly unexpected and inconvenient.
When I got to the piauí offices on Wednesday, after the piece in the Folha de S. Paulo but before O Globo had officially announced the cancellation of the tour, the first person I saw was a fellow João Gilberto fan – a die-hard with tickets for the December 21st show in Rio. We’d been corresponding through the whole two-month ordeal; it was through him that I found out about the first delay, and he’d offered up a place for me to stay in São Paulo if I did go see the show. “Ah, it’s finally shot to hell,” I said glumly, going in for a sympathetic hug. When I drew back I saw a look of confusion on his face. “But he hasn’t canceled his show in Rio yet,” he said.
Now, let’s examine the situation at hand. The man is a notoriously eccentric 80-year-old invalid who evidently has no intention of leaving his bedroom (João Gilberto, that is, not my friend). The show in Salvador had just been canceled. The show in São Paulo was canceled. But the fact that no João Gilberto rep had officially said, “THERE WILL BE NO SHOW IN RIO” burned like a tiny eternal spark in my friend’s breast. He still had hope. (Hope that would be crushed the next day.)
And this may be the true legacy of João Gilberto. Not the vozinha e violão, not the reinterpretation of the classic sambistas, but a fanbase that will follow him from one end of the earth to the other, crossing seabeds and mountaintops if necessary. It’s almost like a newfound Sebastianismo. In 500 years, I imagine Joãogilbertianos with copies of Chega de Saudade hung over their mantels, murmuring “Desafinado” like the Lord’s Prayer before every meal, firm in the certainty that some day, be it November or December or 2012 or 2112, João o rei bom will rise from his Leblon apartment and take the stage. And this time, he will sing.
Louco, sim, louco, porque quis grandeza
Qual a Sorte a não dá.
Não coube em mim minha certeza;
Por isso onde o areal está
Ficou meu ser que houve, não o que há.
Minha loucura, outros que me a tomem
Com o que nela ia.
Sem a loucura que é o homem
Mais que a besta sadia,
Cadáver adiado que procria?