They’ve got an awful lot of music in Brazil, and filtering north along with it over the years have been such stars as Gilberto, Jobim, Mendes and Purim. The latest arrival is Morris Albert, 24, but unlike some of those predecessors, his Tin Pan Alger story was not exactly a cliff-hanger. Morris grew up in a quarter-million-dollar beach house on the proper edge of Rio, and family cruzeiros helped finance his first record, Feelings. It promptly became one of the huge hits of the winter and put Albert up for three Grammys this month—for best new artist, pop male vocalist and songwriter of the year.
Feelings, a baleful tune of lost love which has the lilt of a morning-after Carnival samba arranged by Ray Conniff, is such a catchy natural that 168 other singers (including Johnny Mathis, Bobby Vinton, Andy Williams and the Lettermen) have “covered” Morris’s original version. Which only means that, aside from his own gold record, Albert is now collecting writer royalties on sales of eight million in more than 20 countries.
If fans think it’s funny but Albert doesn’t sound Brazilian, well, his dad was an Israeli-born construction tycoon, his mom, a Brazilian educated in France. Morris, born Mauricio Alberto Kaiserman, was sent to the local Anglo-American school and, after the usual bourgeois piano lesson bit, founded his own rock band at 14, the Thunders, “strictly imitating the Beatles and American groups, with nothing original or Brazilian.” But it wasn’t until a trip to New York to visit his older brother Norton, a stock broker, that Albert perfected his English enough to start composing in the language. Feelings came after he returned home, and his Wall Street sibling decided that his best career investment was to become Morris’s road manager.
Now Albert has left the family estate in Rio and has come to L.A. with his five months’ pregnant lady, Sylvia, whom he met vacationing in the South of France. (Morris refers to her as “my wife,” though his Brazilian Catholic first spouse won’t give him a divorce.) “My music is universal,” explains Albert, “but it’s more American than anything.” Though he was raised in Portuguese, French and Spanish, the Brazilian star already speaks the language of Hollywood. “Music and words just come into my head,” he says, “and the words are already in English. I have no more thoughts in Portuguese.”