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Tim Maia: The Brazilian King of Soul Music

Updated on September 5, 2018
JanisaChatte profile image

This article was guest-written by Saulo, who has a keen interest in music, biology and various underrated but exciting subjects.

Who was he?

He was one the most famous icons in the Brazilian half of fame, Tim Maia or Sebastião Rodrigues Maia was a Brazilian musician, songwriter and businessman who lived a furious life, reflective of his short fuse personality and lifestyle.

In In his 55 years of life he traveled through the United States in a stolen car, had a pet hawk, was the dedicated follower of a cult about aliens, and of course, consumed copious amounts of alcohol, cocaine and weed.

Where it Started

He was born on Rio de Janeiro, in the Tijuca, a neighborhood once famous for its rich soil for new artists.

Son of mixed race parents, he was the 2 son of the couple who had 19 children. A talented musician, he started writing songs at the early age of 8 years old, and at 14 he already was part of a musical group, in which he played as a drummer.

Coincidentally, he grew up close to some other very famous musicians such as Jorge Ben and Roberto Carlos, both of who later became stars big as himself on the musical scene. They went on the became a new band, called "The sputniks", name chosen by Tim Maia cause of his love for space and all things related.

The band ended being dissolved, and after his fathers death, Tim decided to go to the United States. He lied to his mom to convince her to sign a visa for him and got the United States with the help of some priests who were going to do the same trip.

He went to New York in 1959 and staid in there for 4 years, during this period he survived in any way he could. While there he lived in 10 different houses and worked as a fast food server.

On New York he met a band, called The Ideals. Roger Bruno, who went of to write songs recorded by Cher and Teddy Pendergrass was also a part of this band. During this period they played on bars and did little shows around the town.

On his fourth year on the United States he decided to something different and went on a travel with three friends - on a stolen car and smoking marijuana. The group visited 8 states, surviving by stealing small amounts of food. The travel finished on Florida for Tim, were he was arrested for possession of weed and for stealing. He was arrested for some time before being deported to Brazil.

His career

Once he was back he went to live for a time in Rio de Janeiro, where he had some few unsuccessful jobs which made him decide to move to São Paulo.

There he tried to contact his old friend Roberto Carlos, which was now extremely famous and influential. But once he got in contact with the artist he received a cold treatment, he was made to wait for a long time for him, and was later humiliated by one of his assessors.

He did not gave up and kept working towards his success. He eventually landed some small presentations on bars around the town and even appeared on a radio program some times. But his career just took a turn, when through the inter mediation of Roberto Carlos first wife, Cleonice Rossi, who convinced Roberto to get him a deal at a the TV channel "Jovem Guarda", which was very influential at the time. He published some singles during this period, without much success.

It was thanks to the published "These are the songs" which he singed in duo with Elis Regina, that he got a deal with Polydor and published his first success.

In the next decade, during a good portion of the seventies he dedicated himself to his career, reaching great heights and exploded in 1976 with the rise of the Black Movement.

The rational culture

One of the most bizarre parts of his career was the period during which he was a devoted follower of an organization/cult known a the Rational Culture. Tim discovered the cult through the teachings of a book he found in the house of a friend, and in the following months he became obsessed with the cult, going to the point of stopping eating red meat, stopping using drugs, shaving both his beard and hair and only recording musics related to the book. Lets not forget this is the man who would usually ingest lots of cocaine, whisky and weed before shows and was known for saying: "i did a rigorous diet, and in 2 weeks i lost 14 days".

During this obsessive period he published 2 albums, both of those only had musics about the cult. It was received with distrust by his fans, who weren't used to this different style and cause of his intents of propagating what at their eyes was a religion, he lost points on the eyes of music critics too.

His relation with the Rational Culture ended as abruptly as it started and in some few months he had a violent breakup with the Rational Culture, after that he burned his white clothes and went back to his old habits in full speed. According to him, he gave up on the cult cause he discovered the religion's guru was the owner of large pieces of land and was very much sexually active on his 80's. He tried to cover his past and ordered the destruction of every copy of the two albums he released.

His paranoic behavior

An interesting moment happened during a specially rough moment of the musician's career. During which he was very paranoid, perhaps due to the use of drugs, and was convinced someone was stalking him, and would would carry a gun around everywhere he went.

This situation culminated with him shooting in the direction of some workers of the company provider of electricity, who were working at the time on the other side of the road, in front of his house.

Decline on his health and consume of drugs

During the 80's and 90's he had a career punctuated by ups and downs. During this period he had some successes but his career was also punctuated with polemic and discussion.

His excessive use of alcohol, cocaine, weed and food also started to take a tool on the artist, which started to perform with less and less energy throughout his 40's.

He went to a spa to lose weight for some time, but couldn't bare it and ran away on his pijamas.

His actuation on shows was poorer and poorer, but the culmination of all of these problems were on a presentation he made on the musical theater of Niterói, in 8 of march of 1998. He went on to the show looking tired and out of air, and stopped mid show, shaking hands as a sign he couldn't do it anymore.

He went onto the backstage, where he started to feel worse and was sent to the hospital.

He arrived at the hospital unconscious where soon after he had a respiratory crisis.

Where it Ended

Tim died some few days after his last show, on the Hospital Antônio Pedro, due to complications at the age of 55 years.

Today, 20 years after the death of the musician, it is hard to measure his legacy and influence on Brazil's current musical and even political scene. But given a rather loose measurement, it is big. His songs were a big influence on the Black culture, which emerged strong in Rio de Janeiro counterculture, he was the first famous musician to introduce and adapt the Soul musical genre to the Brazilian mainstream audience and his work is indisputably timeless, any one could enjoy one of his tracks today, this timelessness makes his legacy and influence much broader wings.

Tim Maia may some day not be remembered, but his influence will still be felt on the endless streams of influences that composes each generation's original styles.

© 2018 Janisa


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