Readers on the Warpath about 'Tom' Jobim

On the occasion of the singer Andy Williams's death, I posted a clip of Williams and said that his mid-1960s style and look -- pre-Hendrix, pre-Sgt. Pepper, pre-Pet Sounds -- helped me understand Mitt Romney. More and more Romney comes across to me as a man whose taste and demeanor are from an earlier age, and who doesn't quite know how to convey them to the current audience.

That Williams clip was of a duet with the great Antonio Carlos Jobim. Many readers write in to protest the idea that the Jobim and Romney aesthetics can be linked in even this indirect way. For instance, from a reader in Japan:

I'm taking the liberty of writing you now to comment on your "Andy Williams/Antonio Carlos Jobim" post. I gather it was put up partly in the nature of a tribute to the recently deceased Andy Williams, and I shouldn't nitpick at it--but--as you probably know anyway, you do Jobim a huge disservice by filing him under the inspiration for Mitt Romney's sense of style!

Jobim is up there in the list of greatest composers and performers of the 20th century ("Aguas de Marco," "Se todos fossem iguais a voce" etc. etc.). Andy Williams, nice voice and all, doesn't hold a candle to him. (He was also gorgeous in his younger days, judging by the photographs taken in Brazil, without the extra dose of Brylcreem the Andy Williams Show seems to have applied to him.) Do your readers a favor and post some of the YouTube videos from "Tom Vinicius Toquinho e Miucha," for a treat.

I apologize for jumping down your throat, but I wrote my senior thesis, back when, on Tom Jobim and the singer Elis Regina, and they have a space very close to my heart.

OK, how about this one with Elis Regina, below. Watch it through and tell me that this interaction is not as romantic as anything you have seen -- even if, like me, you don't understand a word they are saying.

My wife will testify that I love Jobim music in general and could listen to the deceptively simple melodies of Aguas de Março or even Samba De Uma Nota Só for a very long time. Not to mention Onda, Insensatez, Saudade, Agua de Beber, Dindi, etc. So there.


In your comment concerning the death of Andy Williams, you showed what was considered to be cool in the pre rock and roll 60's ("Mad Men") era using a clip of Williams singing "Girl from Ipanema" (one of the preeminent Bossa Nova songs) with its composer, Antonio Carlos Jobim.  You then equated Mitt Romney's style (and overall manner) to this era and, by extension, to Bossa Nova.  While I understand (and agree) with the linkage of Romney to the early 60's era, I strongly disagree with linking him to Bossa Nova. 

Having grown up through the 60's and 70's, and having listened to (and liked) much of the rock from that time period, I still think that Bossa Nova (which my Mom introduced me to) is the coolest music there is, with Jobim being the coolest composer.  To me, it's a type of music that transcends the era it was created in.  And, for me, Romney is someone who definitely can't seem to transcend anything, including the early 60's era whose style he seems most in tune with.

If fact, when I think the about the cool, refined, restrained sounds of Bossa Nova, the politician that pops into my head is not Mitt Romney but Barack Obama.  Go figure.


My wife and I are currently at Bourg Le Compte, France on our barge and have limited internet coverage, so I was unable to view the Andy Williams clip. Growing up in that era (I'm 63), I can imagine the blandness (viewed from our time) of the music and the presentation.  However, there was something going on with Brazilian music in the U.S. during this period that I think had an influence on a lot of popular music and culture to this day. 

Tom Jobim (and Sergio Mendez and others) made "foreign" music accessible and and acceptable.  Who could have predicted from this clip that sitar music would through the Beatles become popular not so many years later.  Tastes need to be cultivated and the Jobim's (and to their credit the Sinatra's the William's and others) opened American ears to other types of music.  Williams was popularizing the music and certainly not radical, but the opening of world music to the U.S. market certainly came from this period.  And the breadth of current American musical tastes is better for these early commercial efforts.

That is all. But please do watch that clip above.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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