By Pedro Souza
March 27, 2017
With a rich musical heritage, Brazil boasts a plethora of musical legends. In a country that produced musicians such as Villa Lobos, Raul Seixas, Baden Powell and Chico Buarque, few musicians are as loved and missed as Tim Maia. Maia, whose real name was Sebastião Rodrigues Maia, was born in 1942 in the neighborhood of Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro. During his teenage years, he started playing drums at a band called “Tijucanos do Ritmo” formed in a church near his house. Maia soon switched to playing the guitar however.
In 1957, he founded a vocal band known as “The Sputniks”, which featured musicians such as Roberto Carlos, Arlênio Silva, Edson Trindade and Wellington. The band acquired some degree of popularity playing in a rock program in the TV channel “Canal Tupi”. After “The Sputniks” disbanded, Maia left Brazil to live in the United States in 1959. It was there that he had contact with soul music, which he quickly fell in love with. He started singing there in a vocal group called “The Ideals”, where he was known as “Jim”. His stay in the United States was short however, ending when Maia was deported back to Brazil in 1963 after being condemned for theft and drug possession.
Coming back from the United States, Maia brought soul music with him. In 1968, he produced Eduardo Araújo’s album “O som é o boogaloo”, which played an important part in the history of soul music in Brazil. It was also this year that he launched his first solo album through CBS, a compact disk with the song “Meu País” and “Sentimento”. In 1969, his popularity increased with the release of his second compact disk, this one with the songs “These are Songs” and “What Do You Want to Bet”.
While Maia’s name was growing, fame would come in the following year with the release of his album “Tim Maia”, which contains some of his classic tracks such as “Primavera” and “Eu amo você”. This album was followed by a series of other successful albums in between 1971 and 1975 named “Tim Maia Volume II”, “Tim Maia Volume III” and Tim Maia Volume IV”. In 1975 however, his career went through a drastic change due to his contact with a spiritual doctrine known as “Cultura Racional” (Rational Culture). In between 1975 and 1976 he launched two albums named “Racional Volume I” and “Racional Volume II” in which he expounded the doctrine of the Cultura Racional. Despite the fact that few people know about Cultura Racional nowadays, the albums he wrote during this phase are considered by many to be among his best, with a musicality heavily influenced by funk and soul music. After disagreements with Manuel Jacinto Coelho, who was the leader of Cultura Racional, Maia turned his back on the doctrine and took the albums out of circulation, turning them into a collectors item.
Maia proceeded to cruise through the eighties in a whirlwind of concerts and drugs, releasing more successful albums such as “Tim Maia” (1986) and the LP “O Descobridor dos Sete Mares”. In 1985, he recorded a version of the song “Um Dia de Domingo” from Michael Sullivan and Paulo Massadas together with the legendary MPB singer Gal Costa. He also took part in a musical named “Cida, a Gata Roqueira” (Cida, the Rocker Cat) in 1986, inspired by the movie “The Blues Brothers”. Maia began the 90’s releasing an album in which he interpreted bossa nova songs, displaying once again his amazing versatility. He would go on to record more bossa nova, soul music, pop and funk songs through the nineties. Unfortunately, his heavy drug use was taking a heavy toll on Maia, who became known for his problems maintaining his schedule for concerts and recordings. In march 1988, Maia was attempting to record a TV show when he felt ill and left the recording room without any explanation. He was taken to the hospital that day, where he would die from a generalized infection on March 15 at the age of 55.
Thus died one of the biggest musical legends in the history of Brazil. The country mourned that day, and musicians from all over Brazil paid tribute to Maia. Although his life was cut short, the mark he left on the Brazilian music scene remains strong. Nowadays, the man is no longer with us, but his music lives on and reminds us of his greatness.