The girl from Ipanema never saw a dime from the song. Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto really was tall and tan and young (fifteen years old) and lovely, and she really did walk each day to the sea, or at least to the stores along the beachfront. Among those she passed were lyricist Vinicius de Moraes and musician Antônio Carlos Jobim, who were so enchanted that they wrote a song about the young woman, originally called “Menina que Passa” (“The Girl Who Passes By”), and translated into English as “The Girl from Ipanema.”
It was destined to become one of those songs that everyone knows. It’s in waiting rooms and elevators everywhere. It’s probably in your head right now. Poor Heloísa never got any financial recompense for her role, though she does now have a successful chain of clothing stores, Garota de Ipanema, which is Portuguese for “Girl from Ipanema.”
Cool, huh? There’s plenty more what that came from in The Girl in the Song, a quirky little book about the women who inspired some of the greatest hits in rock history—not that “The Girl from Ipanema” is rock, exactly. Authors Michael Heatley and Frank Hopkinson bend the definition of “rock” a bit, but they also bend the definition of “girl” at one point:
“Well I’m not dumb but I can’t understand / Why she walked like a woman but talked like a man, Oh my Lola”
The story here is that The Kinks were having a late-night party in the apartment of their manager, Robert Wace, who was having a grand time with a girl; “Well we drank champagne and danced all night,” as the song goes. In the morning, Mr. Wace was feeling too poorly to much care if the girl had a five o’clock shadow.
Or how about the much more famous Pattie Boyd, who inspired three different songs? First there was “Something,” by first husband George Harrison of the Beatles (“Something in the way she moves /Attracts me like no other lover”). It’s kind of sad, though, when George croons his plaintive question: “You’re asking me, will my love grow? / I don’t know, I don’t know.” I’m afraid I know, George: Pattie’s going to leave you for your buddy Eric Clapton. The first clue comes from his song “Layla,” named after a Persian literary character who loved a man other than her husband.
Pattie didn’t take the bait then, but it was only a matter of time. Years later, when Boyd had defected to Clapton, she was trying on clothes for a party and she asked how she looked. “Wonderful Tonight,” that’s how she looked: “It’s late in the evening, she’s wondering what clothes to wear / She puts on her makeup and brushes her long blond hair /And then she asks me, Do I look all right? /And I say Yes, you look wonderful tonight.”
Each mini-essay in the book is a treat, with photos and trivia about the women, the songs, and the musicians. You can read the whole thing in one sitting, and with luck, you’ll come across a song that will nudge “The Girl from Ipanema” out of your head.
Check the WRL catalog for The Girl in the Song