When Milton Nascimento was 2 years old, he touched the keys of a small piano for the first time. Shortly thereafter, he was given an accordion, as well as a guitar -- even though it was intended for a relative. Born in Rio de Janeiro, son of a domestic servant, Milton was taken to Minas Gerais state and raised by foster parents in the small town of Três Pontas. As a teen, he migrated to the state capital Belo Horizonte forging a life between a job as a typist in an accounting office by day, and at city bars, playing bass guitar -- an extremely fashionable instrument during the jazz/bossa-nova era -- at night.
A self-taught musician who enjoyed playing guitar in the kitchen beside a firewood stove, Milton Nascimento learned music by listening to the local radio station. He tried to be a DJ simply to broadcast his favorite songs – such as the intimate singing of João Gilberto and the orchestral soundtracks arranged by Henry Mancini. “We used to hear everything, without prejudice, including a lot of Latin and Spanish music, which I associate with the Minas Gerais atmosphere”, he recalls. Although his musical education was severely limited, he supplied his own harmonies, which were later considered highly innovative by his fellow musicians.
The pianist and conductor Wagner Tiso, Milton's childhood friend, was a partner during these early years. They traveled endless dirt roads in an old van, which would constantly get stuck in the mud. Initially they were part of the group “Luar de Prata”, an attempt to imitate the American group “The Platters”. The group became the “W’s Boys”, also American influenced, for which Milton took the pseudonym "Wiler." In time he participated in bossa-nova groups such as Evolusamba and Sambacana. He started to compose with his partner Márcio Borges, inspired by the images of the French film “Jules et Jim”, starring Jeanne Moreau. “I wanted to create different things”, he recalls. In his first compositions such as “Paz do amor que vem”, “A Novena” (not released until 1993, on the album ‘Angelus’), “Crença”, “Coragem”, “Gira girou”, Milton already evoked the density of the baroque mineiro*, unexplored by Brazilian musical roots.
With the advent of music festivals and the dawning of a new generation of post-bossa-nova stars like Edu Lobo, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Elis Regina, Milton went to São Paulo, the hip place of Brazil in 1965. At a festival there, he sang “Cidade Vazia”, a composition by guitarist Baden Powell (lyrics by Lula Freire). The same year one of his compositions, the instrumental “...E a gente sonhando”, was recorded for the first time by the group Tempo Trio. After winning fourth place in the festival, he became intimidated by the highly competitive atmosphere. Milton almost starved during his stay in the big city, even though the new star Elis Regina recorded his song “Canção do Sal” on her second album, in 1966.
The quality of his work started to be talked about among other artists, including Agostinho dos Santos, a great singer of the period. He was internationally known for the hit song “Manhã de Carnaval” from the soundtrack of “Orfeu Negro” or "Black Orpheus", a film by French director Marcel Camus. Saying that he intended to record Milton’s compositions on his next album, Agostinho got a tape with three songs and enrolled them, without the author’s knowledge, in the International Music Festival, in Rio de Janeiro, in 1967.
They all qualified for the final competition and one of them, “Travessia”, won the second place, becoming a kind of anthem of the era.
Milton’s career was established with Wagner Tiso, Toninho Horta, Beto Guedes and Lô Borges – pillars of a group that would be known as “The Corner Club”, (Clube da Esquina), because of two exemplary albums released in 1972 and 1978. Although Milton had always led on acoustic guitar, the premier instrument of Brazilian Popular Music, he took a sudden turn to pop/rock with guitars and keyboards, and then joined “Som Imaginário,” a progressive rock group with Wagner Tiso, Robertinho Silva, Luís Alves and Zé Rodrix. His short hair now grew wild, and his transformation echoed Bob Dylan's who'd exchanged his folk harmonica & acoustic guitar to go electric. “Because now I am a cowboy / I am from the gold, I am you / I am from the world / I am Minas Gerais”, Milton sang in the emblematic track “Para Lennon & McCartney” (by Fernando Brant, Lô and Márcio Borges). It was a highly vocal turning point amid the silence enforced by the bayonets of the military dictatorship in 1970. Many Brazilian artists were already in exile.
Milton Nascimento won over the masses in the first half of the decade. From bars and small theaters, he moved on to play in university campuses, gymnasiums, stadiums and squares. His voice was carved out of the bronze of the Minas Gerais churches, and was often inspired, as in the chants of “Sentinela,” by religious traditions. Nothing could silence Milton now – not even the censorship that mutilated the lyrics of the album “Milagre dos Peixes” (1973), reducing them to murmurs and shouts.
Increasingly, his anthems were heard and sung by big crowds. “San Vicente”, “Maria, Maria”, “Nada Será como Antes”, “Fé Cega, Faca Amolada”, “Raça”, “Canção da América”, “Nos Bailes da Vida”, “Encontros e Despedidas” all became part of the Brazilian cultural landscape. The Corner Club, which had embraced Spanish lyrics with “Canto Latino” and “Dos Cruces”, soon incorporated the Castilian fraternity with the Argentinean Mercedes Sosa (“Volver a los 17”, by Violeta Parra), an adaptation of a Chilean folkloric tale by Parra, with a final strophe by Polo Cabrera (“Casamiento de Negros”). A song in Spanish by Chico Buarque was also included, and was interpreted with the Cuban Pablo Milanés (“Canción por la Unidad de Latin America”). The Corner had opened its doors to the world, and international tours followed with concerts in temples such as Blue Note, Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Le Palace, Montreux, Montreal and the NYC JVC festivals, among others. The mixed rock style was inherited in part from the Beatles, and reflected in duets and special appearances with great musicians like Peter Gabriel, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Jon Anderson (Yes), Sting and even Warren Cuccurulo (Duran Duran) on Milton's albums and in concert.
His American career started at the end of the 60’s with the U.S. release of “Courage”, with arrangements by Eumir Deodato. It was always a two way street. With the sax player Wayne Shorter (ex-Miles Davis, Weather Report), he recorded in the United States (“Native Dancer”, “Milton”) and in Brazil (“A Barca dos Amantes”, “Angelus”). Other important jazz players such as Herbie Hancock, Hubert Laws, Ron Carter, Pat Metheny and Jack DeJohnette also adhered to the sound that was defined, in an European festival, simply as “Milton”. His sound weaves through America, Africa and Europe in a formidable chant that defies all labels. He appeared on the American charts in the jazz category, twice received the title of “Best Artist of the Year” from the jazz magazine Down Beat, and reached the first position in the Billboard world music list with the album “Txai” (1990). Milton received a Grammy in 1998 in the world music category for his album “Nascimento”.
Released in 1997, "Nascimento" was followed by a hugely successful tour called “Tambores de Minas." It was a meeting of two masters of Minas culture: Milton Nascimento and Gabriel Villela, a theater director. The songs “Janela para o Mundo” and “Louva-a-Deus” became Nasimento classics on the level of his earlier hits such as “Caçador de Mim” and “Canção da América”. Voted by the Brazilian audience and critics as the best show of the year, and the best in Milton’s career, the concert had a cast of nine acrobats-dancers-singers and a band composed of new and older musicians from the singer/composer's career.
“Tambores de Minas” was recorded live at a theater in Rio de Janeiro. While onstage, Milton was given the Grammy he'd just won, from the U.S. producer of “Nascimento”, Russ Titelman. And he didn’t stop. During 1998, the show criss-crossed Brazil, with 80 concerts in theaters and open air squares, reaching over 200,000 people.
Milton Nascimento's other honors include: “Minas Gerais Honorable Citizen,” “Order of Rio Branco" (the highest Brazilian honor), and “Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres”. The latter included a private lunch at the Elysée Palace with French President François Mitterand. Milton received the Shell Prize for his life's work in 1986; the Sharp Prize in 1996. Milton Nascimento participated in films (as actor and/or original soundtrack composer) such as “Fitzcarraldo” (Werner Herzog), “Os Deuses e os Mortos” (Ruy Guerra), “Noites do Sertão” (Carlos Alberto Prates), “A Terceira Margem do Rio” (Nelson Pereira dos Santos), “Veja Esta Canção” (Carlos Diegues) and the recent “O Viajante” (Paulo Cezar Saraceni). He wrote songs for the “Poema Sujo” by Ferreira Gullar and ballet music for the groups O Corpo (“Maria, Maria”, “Último Trem”), Stagium (“Missa dos Quilombos”) and Parsons Dance Company (“Nascimento”).
He also participated in numerous social projects such as “Catavento”, which took radio shows to the countryside of Minas; “Música de Minas – Escola Livre” to develop the musical abilities of his countrymen. He composed the music for “Missa dos Quilombos," ("Mass for slaves"), a beautiful spectacle which received bomb threats because of its anti-racist sentiments. His profound devotion to preservation of the ecology and respect for the environment earned him the World Rain Forest” award, a prize he considers as his most important. “A non political Nobel “, he says. It was awarded at the United Nations.
With the album “Crooner” (1999), Milton Nascimento paid a tribute to his own past as an anonymous musician. The repertoire mixes songs that go back to the 50's with a few contemporary songs as well. From “Frenesi” to “Only You” and from Dolores Duran and Tamba Trio to Nando Reis, Samuel Rosa and Lulu Santos. The journey to the past moved Milton. He found real pleasure in recording songs that he had sang before, or had always wanted to sing, in the great ballrooms of life.
The fans accepted his invitation to dance. “Crooner” sold over 300,000 copies and WEA celebrated it with a special platinum edition. In 2000, Crooner received a Latin Grammy for Best Pop Album of the year.
Following Crooner, Milton began work on one of the most anticipated albums of Brazilian Popular Music: a collaboration with Gilberto Gil. The project “Gil & Milton”, released in 2000, was a special production that, besides their own compositions, included songs by Dorival Caymmi, Luiz Gonzaga and Ari Barroso, Fito Paez and George Harrison. The tour lasted through October 2001, with engagements throughout Brazil, Europe and Latin America.
In 2002, Milton devoted himself to the launch of his own label, “Nascimento”, distributed by WEA. The first release was the double album “Trilhas de Ballet”, including the scores of “Maria Maria” and “Último Trem” composed for Grupo Corpo.
In December of the same year, he released through WEA, the album PIETÁ, which was acclaimed by the media and public as his best work in the several years and the Best Album of Brazilian Music released in 2003.
2008 - MILTON NASCIMENTO & BELMONDO
2008 - MILTON NASCIMENTO & JOBIM TRIO
Emi Blue Note
2003 - PIETÁ
2000 - GILBERTO E MILTON
1999 - CROONER
1998 - TAMBORES DE MINAS
1997 - ASCIMENTO
1995 - AMIGO
1993 - ANGELUS
1991 - O PLANETA BLUE NA ESTRADA DO SOL
1990 - TXAI
1987 - YAUARETE
1986 - A BARCA DOS AMANTES
1985 - ENCONTROS E DEPEDIDAS
1983 - AO VIVO
1982 - MINAS DOS QUILOMBOS
1982 - ANIMA
1981 - CACADOR DE MIM
1980 - SENTINELA
1978 - CLUBE DA ESQUINA 2
1976 - GERAES
1975 - MINAS
1974 - MILAGRO DOS PEXES
1972 - CLUBE DAS ESQUINA
1970 - MILTON
1969 - MILTON NASCIMENTO
1968 - COURAGE
1967 - TRAVESSIA