The Girl From Ipanema
Helô Pinheiro would walk past the Veloso bar on the beachfront of Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, every day. She was “tall and tanned and young and lovely” – and she was regaled by the men who drank there.
Summer 1962. Rio de Janeiro. At the Veloso Bar, a block from the beach at Ipanema, two friends—the composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and the poet Vinícius de Moraes—are drinking Brahma beer and musing about their latest song collaboration.
The duo favour the place for the good brew and the even better girl-watching opportunities. Though both are married men, they’re not above a little ogling. Especially when it comes to a neighborhood girl nicknamed Helô. Seventeen-year-old Helôisa Eneida Menezes Pais Pinto is a Carioca—a native of Rio. She’s tall and tan, with emerald green eyes and long, dark wavy hair. They’ve seen her passing by, as she’s heading to the beach or coming home from school. She has a way of walking that de Moraes calls “sheer poetry.”
“When they saw me, they would whistle and shout out, ‘Hey beautiful girl! Come over here,'” says Helô, the girl from Ipanema who inspired the song of the same name. “I did not know who they were until years later.” The barflies she ignored were the composer Tom Jobim and the poet Vinícius de Moraes, who turned desire and frustration into a track that is now second only to the Beatles’ Yesterday, as the most recorded song in the world, a sultry hymn to unrequited lust that launched the bossa nova rhythm across the world.
And everyone was asking: “Who’s that girl?” When the composers revealed their inspiration, Helô, as she is known in Brazil, was astonished. “I told them, ‘I don’t believe you. You are crazy. There are so many beautiful women here.’ But it was me. The song says tall. I am tall. And tanned – I had brown skin from the sun. And young – I was at this time. And I didn’t see them. It was true.”