A fertile and successful composer recorded by the biggest names of Brazilian music, Lupicínio Rodrigues symbolizes an entire tradition of dramatic, sentimental, and melancholic Brazilian feeling in music (fossa, dor-de-cotovelo).
He was born in a Porto Alegre neighborhood, which was the meeting point for the musicians who played on cruise ships. In spite of being poor, his father matriculated him at the expensive Colégio São Sebastião, from which he was expelled because he insisted on playing rhythms and singing during classes. He completed his junior school and became a mechanic, working at Carris and Micheletto companies. In 1928, he wrote his first composition, "Carnaval," for the band Moleza, winning a local contest. His father, worried with his Bohemian habits, presented him to the Army as a "volunteer" at 15, with forged documents. As a crooner for the group Catão, he was praised by Noel Rosa during his visit to Porto Alegre. Rosa predicted a great future for the youngster. Rodrigues was then sent into combat in São Paulo during the 1932 Constitutional Revolution. Upon returning, he was transferred to Santa Maria, where "Carnaval" won another contest, interpreted by the Carnaval block Rancho Suco. Met his first love, Inah, who would be his first source for a long series of compositions inspired by the pains of loving. His xote "Felicidade," a very popular song even today, and "Zé Ponte" are both from that period. Returning to Porto Alegre in 1935, he left the Army and looked for a job to be able to bring his fiancée. Meanwhile, he won the Mayoralty contest for the centennial of Farroupilha Revolution with "Triste História," the first partnership with Alcides Gonçalves, who, being a nationally established singer, could project the duo's compositions. In the next year, he was admitted as an attendant at Porto Alegre's Law College. Alcides Gonçalves then recorded their compositions "Triste História" and "Pergunte aos Meus Tamancos" for RCA Victor. After that, Rodrigues was able to bring Inah to Porto Alegre. In 1937, Newton Teixeira, also a renowned composer, recorded "Quando eu for Bem Velhinho" (with Felisberto Teixeira). In 1938, the novice Ciro Monteiro (who'd be shortly an acclaimed singer) recorded the samba "Se Acaso Você Chegasse" for RCA Victor, with enormous nationwide success. The song, written with Felisberto Martins in 1938, was already known at several strategic points of coastal Brazil before being recorded; it was very popular at the prostitution joints of Porto Alegre frequented by the sailors who'd take charge of disseminating it through the rest of the country. In January 1939, abandoned by Inah, who wouldn't accept his Bohemian habits, he "almost died," in his own words. Inspired by this delusion, he'd compose in 1947 the immortal "Nervos de Aço." But at that moment, in sad desperation, he abandoned his job and life in Porto Alegre and went to Rio on a third-class ship, Ibatinga. Arriving in Rio, he was taken to the traditional redoubt of both famous and unknown artists, Café Nice. There he met Wilson Batista, Germano Augusto, Orlando Silva, Nássara, Francisco Alves, and others. He sang "Quem Há de Dizer" to enthusiastic applause from the distinguished audience. At the request of Alves, he also sang "Torre de Babel" and several others. Then Alves took him by his arm, put him in his car, and went to Jockey Club, where while Rodrigues sang, he accompanied him on the violão, trying to learn the songs. Excited, he repeated "Look, kid, stop showing this to other people because I'll record all of them." He wouldn't record them all, but the chosen ones were all big hits with his voice: "Pra São João Decidir," "Quem Há de Dizer," "Esses Moços, Pobres Moços," "Cadeira Vazia," "Nervos de Aço," and "Maria Rosa." In 1939, Rodrigues recorded "Dona Divergência," on which he compared the loving battles in World War II. In 1945, Orlando Silva, one of the best singers in Brazil, recorded the samba "Brasa" (with Felisberto Martins) with huge success. In 1946, he became SBACEN's (an author rights collecting society) co-founder and representative for Rio Grande do Sul. In 1947, the novice group Quitandinha Serenaders achieved national exposure with their recording of Rodrigues' "Felicidade," which also projected the composer even more. In that year, Alves recorded "Nervos de Aço"; the next year, he'd record "Quem Há de Dizer" (with Alcides Gonçalves) and "Esses Moços, Pobres Moços," dedicated to his marrying friend Hamilton Chaves. In 1949, Rodrigues married Cerenita Quevedo Azevedo. The next year, he opened the first inferninho (nightclub) of Porto Alegre, Vogue. He'd open several other nightclubs after that, all of them points of reunion for his friends and other artists. People in the audience were welcome to go on-stage and show their talents and a quotation of a so-called Chinese proverb by Chaves inscribed at the club's wall would give the house's tone: "He who talks when someone plays displays his own ignorance at the shop window." In 1950, Alves recorded "Cadeira Vazia" through Odeon. In 1951, Linda Batista recorded, with enormous success, his samba-canção "Vingança." As always, it was based on his personal life, in this case the story of his five-year romance with a girl who fell in love with one of his employees; he explained in interviews that the boy told him of the treason, so Rodrigues left her. Consumed by remorse, she'd look incessantly for him at every joint, to no avail, and this was his "Revenge." The song, dramatic and shadowy, aroused considerable polemic throughout the press as two unrelated persons, a man and a woman, abandoned by their lovers, committed suicide while listening to that record. In 1952, publisher Emílio Vitale saw his performance at a Porto Alegre club. Impressed by the number of crying women during his presentation, he urged the owner of the São Paulo nightclub Oasis to hire him immediately. He was invited for a ten-day session, which was extended for three months. Rádio Record then released a show entitled Diário de Lupicínio Rodrigues (Lupicínio Rodrigues' Diary). His samba "Divórcio" (Divorce) was dedicated to congressman Nelson Carneiro, who was beginning to fight against the proscription of divorce in Brazilian law, was launched at Rádio Bandeirantes. He also recorded with Trio Simonetti (for Star and later Copacabana) for two albums with six records called Roteiro de um Boêmio. The next year, he composed at a bar's table the "Hino Oficial do Grêmio," a historic anthem for a major soccer club; this was serious business as soccer is Brazil's most popular sport and a violent passion. In 1959, "Ela Disse-me Assim" was recorded by the great romantic interpreter Jamelão, with great success. In 1960, Elza Soares recorded "Se Acaso Você Chegasse" (Odeon), to nationwide acclaim. In 1963, he wrote a weekly column for an RS newspaper about music, serenades, and love. On February 21, 1968, his historic testimony was taken by the Image and Sound Museum of Rio de Janeiro. In that year, RCA Victor released a selection of his songs by his best interpreters on the LP Encontro com Lupicínio Rodrigues. At the V FMPB (V Brazilian Popular Music Festival) the next year, his song "Primavera" (with Hamilton Chaves), interpreted by Isaurinha Garcia, was one of the ten finalists. In 1970, Rodrigues recorded "Esses Moços, Pobres Moços" for the first edition of the Abril Cultural series Nova História da Música Popular Brasileira. In the next year, João Gilberto paid a tribute to him by singing "Quem há de Dizer" on a TV Tupi show. The movie Crazy Love, by Julio Bressane, included "Vingança" (in Linda Batista's rendition) and "Nervos de Aço" (sung by Alves) on its soundtrack. In 1972, Caetano Veloso presented Rodrigues' "Volta," which would be recorded by Gal Costa on her album Índia (Philips). In 1973, Rosicler released the LP Dor-de-Cotovelo and Rodrigues received an homage from artists at the Teatro Opinião in Rio. In that same year, Paulinho da Viola recorded "Nervos de Aço" and Julio Bressane included on his Rei do Barulho movie's soundtrack the song "Ela Disse-me Assim," interpreted by Jamelão. In 1974, Caetano Veloso included "Felicidade" on his live album Temporada de Verão ao Vivo na Bahia (Philips) with great success. Also in 1974, Bruno Barreto included "Esses Moços, Pobres Moços" as the theme song for his movie A Estrela Sobe, and Elis Regina recorded "Cadeira Vazia." In the decade of 1980, popstar Cazuza recorded his compositions with success, while Zizi Possi also scored a hit with "Nunca." Commemorating his 80th birthday, in 1994 the government of Rio Grande do Sul instituted the Ano Lupi — Ano Cultural Lupicínio Rodrigues (Cultural Year Lupicínio Rodrigues). In 1996, Revivendo released a box set with four CDs and 88 of his songs. In the same year, Rodrigues' former partner, Rubens Santos, presented the tribute show Lupicínio às Pampas in Rio and Buenos Aires (Argentine), which included Luís Melodia, Paulo Moura, and Adriana Calcanhoto, among others. In 1997, Editora Globo released the CD and booklet Lupicínio Rodrigues in its series MPB Compositores. He also was portrayed in the books As Paixões Tristes — Lupicínio e a Dor-de-Cotovelo by Rosa M. Dias (Leviatã, 1994) and Foi Assim (1995), an anthology of his chronicles where he explains the episodes that inspired his songs. ~ Alvaro Neder