Bossa Nova Daydreams

New English version of “Luz Negra”

I suppose by now it should be fairly obvious that I have a penchant for sad songs with descending melodies. The subject of my latest effort at samba song translation, Luz Negra (“Black Light”), may be the saddest, most descending song there is. It was composed by Nelson Cavaquinho and Irani Barros and has been covered by many great artists, including Leny Andrade, Richard Galliano and Baden Powell.

Nelson Cavaquinho (center)

Nelson Cavaquinho (center)

There seems to be a certain type of “natural” musician, who, regardless of circumstances, is intrinsically compelled to make music with whatever is at hand. How else can you explain someone like Nelson Cavaquinho: He grew up poor, building his first makeshift guitar all on his own out of a cigar box and some wire. He then taught himself how to play cavaquinho (a kind of Brazilian ukelele) and consequently developed his own unique two-finger playing style. Perhaps most impressive of all, he composed over 600 compositions over the course of his lifetime. You don’t crank out that much music unless you just can’t help it.

Here is my new English version of the lyrics for Luz Negra. One of the most beautiful arrangements of this song can be heard on Lea Freire’s excellent album, Vento em Madeira.

Black Light
(Luz Negra)

All alone
Forever searching for someone
Who suffers just as I have done
But there is no one to be found

Still alone
And life just keeps on passing by
I’ve got no one to care for me
The end is all I see

The black light of a fate so cruel
Shines upon a pallid stage from above
On that stage you’ll find me playing the role
Of the silly fool for love

— English version by Matthew Marth,
based on the original Portuguese version,
entitled “Luz Negra” by Nelson Cavaquinho and Irani Barros



7 Comments so far
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Thanks AD for the English version of Pra Dizer Adeus. It looks pretty decent at first glance. I doubt that I’ll feel the need to make my own version.

Comment by Matthew

PRA DIZER ADEUS has been recorded several times with English lyrics as TO SAY GOODBYE, e.g. in 1968 by Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66 and in 1969 by saxophonist Paul Desmond with Wanda de Sá on vocals.

It’s all over now
You’ve been gone before
But this time it´s over
There´s not much to say
You’re not coming back
You just close the door
Leaving me alone now

Oh was it just a dream
Never really true
Why am I so lonely
Oh so lonely
Please come back to me
Come if it’s one more time
Come even just to say
Just to say adeus

Oh was it just a dream
Never really true
Why am I so lonely
Oh so lonely
Please come back to me
Come if it’s one more time
Come even just to say
Just to say goodbye


Comment by AD

Simply beautiful translation. Thanks for sharing this song, which is new to me. I’m also a fan of the falling melody as well as the pity party in song: recently I’m obsessed with “Pra Dizer Adeus” by Edu Lobo and Torquato Neto. The sad songs make me deliriously happy!

Comment by julie

Thanks julie. I had forgotten about “Pra Dizer Adeus” when I said in my post that “Luz Negra” may be the saddest. That’s a toss-up. I love that song, too. Do you know if there is already an English version for it? If not, maybe I’ll take a crack at it some day.

Comment by Matthew

I know, same with me…
By the way: thank you for subscribing to my site, but I suppose it won’t work unless you answer the confirmation e-mail that you should have received by WordPress.

Comment by AD

Thanks. I also wish I could post more often. Too many projects!

Comment by Matthew

Well done! It is a pity that you post only occasionally…

Give my regards from Frankfurt to Vienna

Comment by AD

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