A true heavyweight, perhaps one of the greatest figures in international pop music, Caetano Veloso is a pop musician/poet/filmmaker/political activist whose stature in the pantheon of international pop musicians is on a par with that of Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, and Lennon/McCartney. Following his sister Maria Bethania (a very successful singer in her own right) to Rio in the early '60s, Veloso won a lyricwriting contest and was quickly signed to Phillips.
It wasn't long before Veloso represented the new wave of MPB (i.e. musica popular brasileira), the all-purpose term used by Brazilians to describe their pop music. Bright, ambitious, creative, and given to an unapologetically leftist political outlook, Veloso would soon become a controversial figure in Brazilian pop. Along with Gilberto Gil, he helped create a new form of pop music, dubbed tropicalismo. Arty and eclectic, tropicalismo retained a bossa nova influence, adding bits and pieces of folk-rock and art-rock to a stew of loud electric guitars, poetic spoken-word sections, and jazz-like dissonance. Such radical music made by such radical musicians faced almost immediate censorship from the Brazilian government (a military dictatorship), and both Veloso and Gil spent time in prison, as well as four years of exile in London from 1968 to 1972.
Although his commitment to politicized art never wavered, Veloso, over the next 20 years, went from being a very popular Brazilian singer/songwriter to becoming the center of Brazilian pop. He kept up a grueling pace — recording, producing, performing, even writing — and in the '80s, Veloso became increasingly better known outside of Brazil by touring in Africa, Paris, Israel, and America. Still, his work over the years remained challenging and intriguing without being modified for American tastes. After his 1989 recording Estrangeiro (produced by Ambitious Lovers Arto Lindsay and Peter Scherer) became his first non-import release in America, Veloso's stateside profile reached its highest point with 1993's Tropicalia 2, recorded with Gilberto Gil. He embarked on his largest American tour in 1997, and was acclaimed worldwide for his 1998 album Livro.