Carlos Lyra obituary

A charismatic performer and fine composer who played a key role in the development of bossa nova

The singer, composer and guitarist Carlos Lyra, who has died aged 90, played a key role in the development of bossa nova, the “new wave” in Brazilian music of the late 1950s. This cool, sophisticated fusion of samba-canção (samba song), jazz and western classical influences emerged from the bars and clubs of Rio de Janeiro to become massively popular in the US and around the world.

Unlike many other early bossa heroes, Lyra was both a charismatic performer and a fine songwriter, known for his exquisite melodies. He was also determined to bring a political edge into a style associated with gently languid songs about young women and sunshine. Interviewed for the BBC series Brasil, Brasil in 2007, he told me that bossa was “the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie … something that came from the middle class for the middle class”. And this was something that he was determined to change.

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