The Legendary Song Inspired by a Chance Encounter, a Musical Mystery

The Podcasting Store
3 min readApr 5, 2024


by Drew Holmes

Antonio and Vinicius were stuck.

They had success collaborating on music for the film Black Orpheus, an updated version of the classic Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice and were working on a new project. Instead of the dark tone of a story set in the underworld they wanted to do something fun and lighthearted.

Vinicius had the idea of a comedy he titled Blimp, which was the story of a Martian who finds himself in Rio de Janeiro during the height of Carnival. The concept was simple, but he was at a loss for an idea to set to music for a song in this new movie. What would impress an alien on their first visit to Earth?

He and Antonio pondered this question over Brahma beers at the Veloso Bar. The libations were good and with the beach just a block away the girl-watching opportunities were plentiful. As their bottles emptied inspiration walked by.

Heloisa was a tall and tan teenager, with emerald eyes and dark flowing hair. She lived nearby and would pass the bar on her way to school or the beach, usually drawing stares and wolf whistles. Vinicius characterized her as “the golden girl, mixed with flower and mermaid, full of light and grace but whose vision is also sad, because she carries with her, on the way to the sea, the feeling of what passes, of beauty that is not only ours — it is a gift of life in its beautiful and melancholy and steady flow.”

Heloisa was the muse they needed. The duo channeled their instant infatuation, and with Antonio’s music and Vinicius’ lyrics they had their song. Though Blimp never got off the ground, their composition endured. That first Portuguese version was successful in Brazil, but a later one in English found worldwide acclaim.

This recording won a Grammy for Record of the Year and in 2001 was enshrined in the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame. It is the second most covered song in history behind only the Beatle’s Yesterday, with versions by every artist from Eartha Kitt to Amy Winehouse to Frank Sinatra. The song was featured in the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics catapulting it back on the Billboard chart more than five decades after its release.

Vinicius continued his prolific output as a poet, diplomat, lyricist, essayist, musician, singer, and playwright, earning the nickname O Poetinha (“The little poet”). Antonio worked with many American musicians of the day fusing jazz and Latin influences into a new style of music. These efforts earned him the title “Father of Bossa Nova”.

And what of the girl who inspired their famous song?

Never settling on a career, Heloisa dabbled in acting and modeling. She twice posed for Playboy, first in 1987 and again with her daughter in 2003. In 2001 she opened a clothing boutique named after the legendary lyrics she inspired. In her native Brazil her fame is eclipsed only by Pele.

When she served as the muse for Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto was just a Carioca, another girl from Rio. Her chance passing by the Veloso Bar created an icon, and today she is best known as The Girl From Ipanema.



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