Boys from Clube da Esquina cover found 40 years later


Tonho and Cacau

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the album Clube da Esquina by Milton Nascimento, Lô Borges, and the rest of the Corner Club.  A hugely important album in Brazilian music, Clube also has personal importance for me: it inspired me to learn portuguese so that I could understand Brazilian song lyrics myself, without a translator.

The iconic cover photo of two little boys, one white and one black,  is often mistakenly thought to be of Milton and Lô as children.  Metaphorically, maybe.  But the picture was taken  from the window of a Volkswagen Beetle in rural northern Rio de Janeiro state by Cafi, one of the group.  It was in the vicinity of a fazenda owned by the parents of  lyricist Ronaldo Bastos; Bastos and Cafi were driving around shooting photos of clouds when they noticed the two boys sitting on a sort of dirt hill by the road. Cafi saw the potential for a good shot and snapped their picture.  In an article published by Estado de Minas, Cafi recalls:  “It was like a lightning bolt. It’s a strong image…the face of Brazil.  At that time quite a few artists were exiled from Brazil, and the photo had this feeling of brotherhood as well.  Milton loved the picture and he ended up choosing it for the cover.”

According to Cafi, the group tried to find the boys several times, unsuccessfully.  But interest in the album’s 40th anniverary rekindled interest in finding the boys – who now of course, are men – and the search was renewed, led by EM Cultura reporter Ana Clara Brant, this time successfully.  Neither man lived very far from the area where the picture was taken.

I probably have seen the cover of Clube da Esquina, on average, at least twice a week for the last 12 years.  How strange that Antonio Rimes, known as Tonho, on the left, saw it for the first time when journalists from Estado de Minas showed it to him this year.  Seven years old at the time of the photograph, he remembers the day: “two guys  pulled up in a VW Beetle, someone called out to me, and I smiled…I remember they took a picture, but I didn’t know it was on an album cover.  My mother is going to be so happy.  We don’t have any photos of me as a little boy.”  He hadn’t heard of Milton Nascimento and confused him with Gilberto Gil, asking if Milton was the one who had been the Minister (of  Culture.)

Cacau, Antônio Carlos Rosa de Oliveira, (right) was 8 at when the photograph was taken. He didn’t remember the day, but years later, he discovered  Clube da Esquina in a record store and suddenly realized  he was looking at a photo of himself.  “I was sure it was me, and I bought a copy of the CD, because the LP wasn’t available anymore.  I wanted it for a keepsake.”    Unlike his friend Tonho, though, Cacau is  a fan of MPB and Milton Nascimento.  “But what,” he says, “are people going to do when they find out that the guy on the cover isn’t Milton?  Are they going to think badly of me?”

The boys were born on the  large rural farm in the state of Rio de Janeiro where their parents worked as laborers.  They remained friends from childhood until the families moved apart when the the boys were about 20.  Today Tonho works at a grocery store, while Cacau is a gardener and painter.  Finding them wasn’t easy. In the end,  the search involved some 53 people, leading Márcio Borges, (Lô’s brother/ Milton’s friend/ lyricist /historian of the group in his book “Os Sonhos Não Envelhecem”/ curator of the Museum of The Clube da Esquina in Belo Horizante, Minas Gerais) to playfully praise Brant as “the greatest detective in world history. Poor Sherlock!”

Writing about Márcio Borges makes me realize that I should write more about the Clube da Esquina.  But until then, you might check out “The Brazilian Sound” by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha. When I’d been cutting my teeth on Jobim for a few months, my husband gave me the book as a gift, thinking I’d like to learn about other Brazilian music.  I remember reading about the Clube and thinking, hmm, Beatles influenced…might be interesting.  Little did I know that a new all-consuming interest and constant source of happiness was just around the corner.

Here’s a link to the original article about Tonho and Cacau from Estado de Minas.

This entry was posted in Brazil, MPB, Music, News and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Boys from Clube da Esquina cover found 40 years later

  1. Els says:

    Beautiful entry. Brazilian music , and specially, this album, is just divine

  2. JP says:

    Oh! I am so happy to find this about the boys. I am american with a brazilian partner and I love the album so much. I also love the cover photo and have often wondered who they were, and if they even knew they were featured on the cover of that great album. Now I know. Thank you so much for your work and for posting it on the web.

  3. Julio Moreno says:

    I did think it was Milton and Lô. This is great news. I’m so glad Tonho is going to get a nice photo of himself as a child–and so will his mama. It was common for lower income people in Brazil not to have photos of themselves as children. That would be even truer for the Northeastern area, where poverty strikes it the hardest and paying for photos was an extravagance laborers couldn’t afford. And I’m sure Cacau must feel really proud of himself now, confirming it was his photo indeed! Great story! Thanks. P.S. I do love all things Milton and CdE. I do have to say that Clube da Esquina 2 is the one that made me turn head over hells for Milton and CdE. It is officially in my Top 30 list forever! Milton makes the world better with his music.

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