Gilberto Gil takes office at the Brazilian Academy of Letters

Gilberto Gil takes office at the Brazilian Academy of Letters

The singer, songwriter and former Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil, was sworn in today as the new occupant of chair 20 of the Brazilian Academy of Letters (ABL), succeeding journalist and lawyer Murilo Melo Filho. Gil was received at ABL by fellow academic Antonio Carlos Secchin.Gilberto Gil takes office at the Brazilian Academy of Letters

In his inaugural speech, Gil said that, among the many honors that life has given him, joining the ABL has a special dimension. “Not only because the ABL is the home of Machado de Assis, a universal writer, Afro-descendant like me, but also because the ABL represents the highest instance, which legitimizes and consecrates, in a perennial way, the activity of a writer or creator of culture in our country. I am the son of a primary school teacher and a doctor. To them I owe my love of lyrics and music. The image of my parents is with me that night and their memory for me is a blessing,” he said.

In another passage Gil mentioned the joys and losses throughout his life: “I have had great successes and joys in this life, but also many sorrows, the biggest and most painful, the loss of my son Pedro Gil. But do not be discouraged and you must always resist. Despite the politically dark times we live in, I bet on hope against physical and moral darkness. Let there be at least a candle flame until we reach full moonlight.”

Despite saying that he would not sing, Gil ended up singing during the speech, the verses: “If the night invents darkness, light invents moonlight. The eye of life invents vision, sweet light over the sea.”


Elected with 21 votes on November 4 of last year, Gilberto Gil will strengthen the Academy’s ties with Brazilian popular music and culture. Gilberto Passos Gil Moreira, from Bahia, was born on June 26, 1942, in Salvador, the eldest son of physician José Gil Moreira and primary school teacher Claudina Passos Gil Moreira.

Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and named Artist of Peace by the UN Agency for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco), Gil has released more than 50 albums that mix influences from the rock, typically Brazilian genres, African music, funk, disco music and reggae.

His interest in music started when he was still a boy, at the age of 3. At the age of 9, while attending high school in Salvador, he was studying music at Academia Regina. His favorite instrument was the accordion, but he also learned to play the guitar. In 1960, Gilberto Gil entered the Federal University of Bahia to study business administration. The following year, he received a guitar as a gift from his mother. At 18, he joined the group Os Desafinados, where he practiced what he learned at the music academy. In 1963, he composed his first song happiness comes latera bossa-nova-style samba that was never recorded.


Gil was one of the creators of the Tropicalista Movement in the 1960s, alongside Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethânia, Gal Costa and Tom Zé, and is the author of renowned songs such as Procession, Sunday at the park and That hug. With Sunday at the park, which he sang with the Mutantes, at the 3rd Festival da Música Popular Brasileira, in 1967, won second place. The festival was the starting point for Tropicalismo.

The Tropicalist Movement, however, was considered subversive by the military dictatorship and Gilberto Gil was arrested, along with Caetano Veloso. In 1969, Gil went into exile in England. That same year, he released the album Gilberto Gilwith the music That hugthe last song he recorded in Brazil, the day before leaving for Europe. That hug ended up becoming the biggest hit of the composer and now immortal of ABL.

In early 1972, Gilberto Gil returned from exile and, in 1976, together with Caetano, Gal and Bethânia, he formed the group Doces Bárbaros, which resulted in an album and tours across the country. In 1978, he performed at the Montreux Festival in Switzerland. That same year, he won the Grammy for Best World Music Album with “Quanta Gente Veio Ver”.


Father of eight children, Gil has four signed literary works: The poetic and the political and other writingsfrom 1988, with Antonio Risério; Gilberto very close2013, with Regina Zappa; Culture by the Word, 2013, with Juca Ferreira; and loving dispositions2016, with Ana de Oliveira.

Awarded with several national and international commendations throughout his musical and political career, and holder of several awards in Brazil and abroad, Gilberto Gil was the winner in 2015 and 2016 of the 26th and 27th Brazilian Music Awards. In the first, he won in the Best Special DVD category, with the DVD Gilberto Sambas live and, in the following year, in the Best MPB Album category, with the CD Two Friends, a Century of Music, made in partnership with Caetano Veloso. The singer, songwriter and former minister is married to Flora Giordano Gil, granddaughter of Italians, which allowed him to obtain Italian citizenship in 2009.

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