Cult Classic: Tim Maia 1970.

For many musicians, choosing the title for an album can prove problematic. Especially, for a debut album. As a result, many of new artists and bands have released eponymous albums.This includes everyone from Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and The Allman Brothers Band to Art In America and Ash Ra Tempel. Then there’s Cluster, Dire Straits and 10CC, The Band, The Beta Band and The Doors. Eponymous debut albums it seems, have always been popular over with new artists. This included Tim Maia.

When he released his debut album in 1970 it was entitled Tim Maia.  It seemed he was following in the footsteps of many other artists. Following the success of his debut album, Tim Maia returned in 1971 with his sophomore album. It too was entitled Tim Maia. So were his third and fourth albums. This was guaranteed to cause confusion.

Nowadays, Tim Maia’s debut album  is known as Tim Maia 1970. It was the start of of a three year period when he released some of the best music of his long and illustrious career. 

Tim Maia was a hugely talented, charismatic and larger life singer  who lived life on the edge and was determined to do things his way. Early on, he realised he was only here for a visit and was going to live life to the full. It was as if he was determined that he would have no regrets. He  packed a lot of living into fifty-years but still left behind a rich musical legacy. The Tim Maia story began in Brazil in 1942

On September ‘28th’ 1942, Tim Maia born in Rio De Janeiro and was the eighteenth of nineteen children. Aged just six, he earned a living delivering homemade food which his mother cooked. This would be the nearest he got to an ordinary job. After that, he devoted himself to music.

At the age of eight, Tim Maia had already written his first song and by the time he was fourteen  had learnt to play the drums and formed his first group Os Tijucanos do Ritmo. They were a short-lived group who were only together for a year. During that period, he took guitar lessons and was soon a proficient guitarist and was able to teach his friends. With some of his friends, Tim Maia formed a new group in 1957. 

This time, it was the vocal harmony group The Sputniks. Not longer after the nascent group was formed in 1957 they made a television appearance on Carlos Eduardo Imperial’s Clube do Rock. Again the group was a short-lived affair and this resulted in Tim Maia embarking upon a solo career. This lasted until 1959 when the seventeen year old singer made the decision to emigrate.

Tim Maia decided to head to America which he believed he was heading for the land of opportunity. With just twelve dollars in his pocket and unable to speak English he arrived in America and called himself Jimmy at customs. Somehow, he managed to bluff his way into the country by saying he was a student.

He lived with his extended family in Tarrytown, New York and worked various casual jobs and augmented his meagre earnings by allegedly committing petty crimes. Soon, he learnt to speak and sing English and this lead to him forming a vocal group The Ideals.

During his time with The Ideals, they recorded a demo of New Love, which Tim Maia had written the lyrics to. Making a guest appearance on the demo was percussionist Milton Banana. Nothing came of the demo and he later resurrected the song for his album Tim Maia 1973. However, by the time Tim Maia recorded New Love with The Ideals he planned on never returning home to Brazil. America was now his home. That was until things went awry for him.

Confusion surrounds why Tim Maia left America and returned home to his native Brazil. There’s two conflicting accounts. The first was that he was arrested on possession of cannabis in 1963, and deported shortly thereafter. That seems unlikely as there were punitive penalties for possession of even a small quantity of cannabis in the sixties. This meant it was unlikely he would’ve been just deported, without serving a jail sentence. This lends credence to the allegation that Tim Maia was caught in a stolen car in Daytona, Florida and after serving six months in prison he was deported back to Brazil in 1964.

Now back home in Brazil, Tim Maia’s life seemed to be going nowhere. He got and lost several jobs, and was arrested several times. It was around this time that he decided to move to São Paulo where he hoped he could get his career back on track.

Having moved to São Paulo, Tim Maia hoped that he would be reunited with one of the former members of The Sputniks. He was hoping to meet Carlos who he hoped could kickstart his musical career. This was ironic as Tim Maia had insulted Carlos before he left the group. It’s no surprise his former bandmate proved inaccessible and he had to make his own way in the São Paulo music scene.

Tim Maia made an appearance on Wilson Simonal’s radio show and then appeared with Os Mutantes on local television. Still, though, he was determined to contact Carlos and sent a homemade demo. Eventually, his persistence paid off.

Carlos on hearing the demo, recommended Tim Maia to CBS. When they heard the demo they offered him a recording deal for a single, and an appearance on the Jovem Guarda television program. His first single was Meu País which was released in 1968 but failed commercially. So did the followup These Are the Songs which he recorded in English. By then, things weren’t looking good for Tim Maia.

His luck changed when Tim wrote These Are the Songs for Carlos. It gave his friend a hit single. At last, things were looking up for Tim Maia.

Things continued to improve when Elis Regina became entranced by  These Are the Songs. Elis Regina asked Tim Maia to duet with her on the song. They recorded the song in English and Portuguese and the song featured on Elis’ 1970 album Em Pieno Veroa. This gave Tim Maia’s career a huge boost. Recording with such a famous Brazilian singer lead to him signing a recording contract with Polydor. 


Having signed to Polydor, Tim Maia somewhat belatedly began to work on his eponymous debut album.  Tim Maia was fast approaching his twenty-eighth birthday, and musically, had a lot of catching up to do.

Soon, work began on Tim Maia’s debut album. He began writing new songs and choosing cover versions for his what became Tim Maia 1970. Eventually, he had twelve songs he planned to record.

Tim Maia wrote three songs himself and cowrote three others. He wrote Jurema, Flamengo and Azul Da Cor Do Mar and cowrote  Cristina and Cristina Nº 2 with Carlos Imperial. Then Tim Maia penned Padre Cícero with his friend Cassiano.

He then wrote Você Fingiu before Cassiano joined forces with  Silvio Rochael to write Eu Amo Você and Primavera (Vai Chuva) with Silvio Rochael. They were joined by João Do Vale and Luiz Wanderley’s Coroné Antônio Bento, Fabio and Paulo Imperial’s Risos and Claudio Roditi’s Tributo À Booker Pittman. These songs were  recorded with producers Arnaldo Saccomani and Jairo Pires.

Accompanying Tim Maia was a relatively small but tight and talented band. The rhythm section provided the heartbeat and were augmented by keyboards, piano percussion and vibes. Meanwhile, Tim laid down his vocals and added acoustic guitar. Later, strings were overdubbed on six tracks. Only then was Tim Maia 1970 complete. Little did any of the musicians realise that they know that they were about to make musical history. 

When Tim Maia 1970 was released later in 1970, the album was hailed a groundbreaking, genre-melting classic by critics. The album was a successful and seamless marriage disparate genres. Soul, funk, samba and Baião rubbed shoulders with hints of easy listening and soul jazz on an album that featured three future Tim Maia classics. They show different sides to Tim Maia.

This includes the album opener Coroné Antonio Bento which is a stomping fusion of soul and funk where Tim Maia’s vocal becomes a vamp.

The ballads are where Tim Maia comes into his own. This includes Cristina and Padre Cícero are soul-baring ballads. So are Você Fingiu and Eu Amo Você where the lushest strings prove the perfect accompaniment to the vocal. However, there’s more to Tim Maia 1970 than ballads.

Jurema sounds as if was recorded in Memphis as stabs of brassy horns and soaring harmonies accompany Ti mMaia as his soulful vocal becomes a vamp. It’s a similar case on Cristina Nº 2, where soul meets funk as his vocal becomes a swaggering vamp.

Risos is a mid-tempo track that floats along and constantly captivates. Then Tributo À Booker Pittman which closes Tim Maia 1970 has a jazz-tinged, soulful sound. This shows Tim Maia’s versatility as seamlessly he switches between and combines musical genres. This he’s been doing throughout Tim Maia 1970.

When Tim Maia 1970 was released this marriage of soul and funk with samba and Baião was a first. No Brazilian artist had attempted this before. It was unheard of. However, it  proved popular amongst record buyers. 

Tim Maia was released in 1970, and spent twenty-four weeks in the upper reaches of the Brazilian charts. It had been a long, hard struggle ever since he was deported from America. Since then, he had been struggling to make a breakthrough. With his twenty-eighth birthday approaching Tim Maia’s star was in the ascendancy.  This should’ve been the start of a long and glittering career.

Instead, Tim Maia’s career was a mixture of genius, farce and tragedy where the hugely talented, charismatic and larger life singer proved to  fundamentally  flawed. Thing went well for Tim Maia initially.

The following year 1971, he released his much-anticipated sophomore album, Tim Maia 1971. Just like its predecessor it was hailed as another groundbreaking album. Critics were won over by an imaginative fusion of soul, funk, samba and Baião which even featured hints of jazz, psychedelia and rock. It was an ambitious and innovative album of genre-melting music that won over critics and was released to critical acclaim. 

Tim Maia 1971 sold well and again entered the higher reaches of the Brazilian charts . It also featured two hit singles, Não Quero Dinheiro (Só Quero Amar) and Preciso Aprender a Ser Só. Tim Maia’s star was still in the ascendancy and it looked as if he was well on his way to becoming one of the biggest stars in Brazilian music. That should’ve been the case given the quality of music on Tim Maia 1971.

After the success of his sophomore album Tim Maia headed to London to celebrate. He had  just enjoyed two successful albums after six years of struggling to make a breakthrough. Now it was time to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of his labour. However, it was during this trip to London, that Tim first discovered his love of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle which would later derail his career. 

Realising that he was only here for a visit Tim Maia embraced the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Almost defiantly he lived each day as if it was his last and hungrily devoured copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. They became part of his daily diet. Fortunately, his new found lifestyle didn’t seem to affect his ability to make music. That was until Tim discovered a new drug that would prove to be his undoing.

In London,  Tim Maia discovered L.S.D. He became an advocate of its supposed mind opening qualities. He took two-hundred tabs of L.S.D. home to Brazil, giving it to friend and people at his record label. Little did Tim know, but this was like pressing the self-destruct button. 

Over the next two years, Tim Maia’s released two further albums,  Tim Maia 1972 and Tim Maia 1973. Both albums were released to critical acclaim and he enjoyed commercial further commerial  success in Brazil. The only problem was after Tim Maia 1973, he became unhappy at the royalty rate he was receiving from his publisher. Not long after this, Tim Maia founded his own publishing company Seroma. This coincided with Tim signing to RCA Victor.

They offered Tim Maia the opportunity to record a double album for his fifth album. He was excited by this opportunity, agreed to sign to RCA Victor, and began work on his fifth album. Somehow, he was still seemed able to function normally on his daily diet of drink and drugs and had already recorded the instrumental parts. All that was left was for him to write the lyrics. 

Seeking inspiration for the lyrics Tim Maia decided to visit Tibério Gaspar as  the pair had previously written songs together. That was where he found a book that would change his life and sadly,  not for the better.

That book was the Universo em Desencanto (Universe in Disenchantment) which revolved around the cult of Rational Culture. They didn’t believe in eating red meat or using drugs. Considering Tim Maia had a voracious appetite for drink and drugs it seemed unlikely that he would join the cult. However, he did.

Straight away, the cult’s beliefs affected Tim Maia and his music. Ever since he joined cult of Rational Energy who fixated on UFOs, he was now clean-shaved, dressed in white and no longer drank, ate red meat, smoked or took drugs. Always in his hand was a mysterious book. Even his music changed.

The lyrics for his fifth album and RCA Victor debut were supposedly about his newly acquired knowledge. This came courtesy of Universo em Desencanto. With the ‘lyrics’ complete, his vocals were overdubbed onto what became Tim Maia Racional, Volumes 1 and 2. With the album completed, he took it to  RCA Victor. They who promptly rejected the album. 

It was claimed that Tim Maia Racional, Volumes 1 and 2  wasn’t of a commercial standard and tha the lyrics made absolutely no sense. The only small crumb of comfort was that Tim’s voice was improving. That hardly mattered for RCA Victor, who weren’t going to release the album. For RCA Victor, it was huge disappointment. 

They thought they had signed an artists who would become one of the biggest names in Brazilian music. Instead, their star signing had joined a cult and handed over the what  was regarded as the worst album of his career. Tim Maia and RCA Victor at an impasse. There seemed to be no way forward. 

That was until decided to buy the master tapes from RCA Victor. Tim Maia then released the album independently which nowadays is a cult classic. However, it failed to match the commercial success of his four previous albums. For his many fans, Tim Maia was no longer the artist he once was. Then in 1976, he quit the cult.

 Tim Maia quit the cult after the release of Racional Volume 2 after falling out with its leader. He felt duped and wanted Tim Maia Racional, Volumes 1 and 2 destroyed. That was the past and now he wanted to move forward.

Tim Maia’s music changed after Tim Maia Racional, Volumes 1 and 2. He released a new album in 1976, entitled Tim Maia which was the start of the most prolific period of his career.

From 1976 right through to 1998, Tim Maia continued to release albums. He released another twenty-five albums between 1977 and 1998. By then, he had released around thirty-four albums. 

Just like his live shows, the albums were hit and miss affairs. Sometimes Tim Maia would turn up, play an outstanding set while other times he would play a mediocre or shambling set. On many occasions, he failed to turn up. He had returned to the rock and roll lifestyle and was living life to the fullest. 

The last album Tim Maia released was Nova Era Glacial in 1995. While other albums were released bearing his name right up until 1998 Nova Era Glacial is regarded as his swan-song.

Tim Maia passed away on March 15th 1998 aged just fifty-five. Sadly, by then his shows and behaviour had become unpredictable. That had been the case since his 1976 post-Racional comeback. Tim Maia was never the same man or musician after his dalliance with the cult of  Rational Culture.

It’s fair to say that the four album Tim Maia released prior to joining the cult were the highlights of a career that spanned three decades and thirty-four albums. The album that introduced Brazilian record buyers to one of their most talented sons, was Tim Maia 1970, the genre-melting epic that was one the highlight of his scareer.

After Tim Maia 1970,  Tim returned with his second classic album album, Tim Maia 1971. He followed this up with Tim Maia 1972 and Tim Maia 1973. They complete a quartet of albums that feature Tim Maia at his very best. Between 1970 and 1973, his star shawn the brightest.

Sadly, since his death in 1998, Tim Maia’s music has been a well-kept secret outside of his native Brazil. Even within Brazil, many record buyers haven’t heard Tim Maia’s music. Those that have, speak about his music with reverence and in hushed tones. 

Like many maverick musicians, Tim Maia’s story sees myth and reality become intertwined. Truth and reality become one,  just like his music was fusion of influences and musical genres. However, over the past few years, Tim Maia’s music has started to find a wider audience. They will embrace the reissue of Tim Maia 1970, which offers further insight into his music. 

Just like many maverick singer-songwriters, Tim Maia was touched by genius but fundamentally flawed. He could’ve, and should’ve, been a huge star. Sadly, something held him back, and stopped him from enjoying the widespread commercial success and critical acclaim his music richly deserved. This was music shaped by a multiplicity of musical influences, genres and of course, his lifestyle. His music is a compelling, captivating fusion influences and musical genres. 

Everything from soul, funk, jazz, rock, samba, bossa nova and baiao thrown into Tim Maia’s mystical and psychedelic musical melting pot. Similarly, Tim’s lifestyle including  drink, drugs, multiple-marriages and imprisonment all shaped and influenced Tim Maia’s music. It’s then given a stir by one of music’s true maverick’s, who on the verge of critical acclaim and commercial success, made a couple of decisions he would later come to regret.

The first of these was discovering L.S.D. in 1971 during a trip to London. However, it was his decision to join a cult that derailed his career. Despite eventually freeing himself from the shackles of the cult only some of his albums came close to reaching his first four. This included Tim Maia and Disco Club. Other albums were hit or miss affairs while his live shows were either outstanding, mediocre or didn’t happen. All this fuelled the mythology that surrounds Tim Maia. 

In a cruel and tragic twist of fate Tim Maia like many maverick musician died young. He was just fifty-five when he died in 1998. Since then, the mythology and rumours surrounding Tim have increased, as has his popularity.  

Tim Maia 1970 is a reminder of one of music’s larger than life characters, Tim Maia. He realised that he was only here for  a visit and embraced the excesses of the rock and roll lifestyle and lived life in the fast lane.  

Maybe without living his life in this way Tim Maia’s music wouldn’t have been as memorable, magical, eclectic and timeless? Tim Maia 1970 is all these things and more. It’s also a classic album  that influence and inspired several generations of songwriters. So did the followup Tim Maia 1971  and nowadays  both albums are regarded as classic albums in Brazil and  among the highlights of his three decade recording career.  However, the album that launched his career was Tim Maia 1970 which is the work of a charismatic singer-songwriter career who was touched by genius but fundamentally flawed.

Cult Classic: Tim Maia 1970.


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