Over the past year or so I have been collecting the recorded versions of ‘Mulher Rendeira’ into a table with its accompanying data, i.e. Date Recorded, Country Recorded, Label etc. Of course this data may be incomplete as it is hard to find the comprehensive records of releases from the past eighty years without travelling all over the world, conducting interviews and going through hundreds of back catalogues! Nevertheless, my findings show some fairly surprising little trends:
While the most versions were obviously recorded in the song’s original home of Brazil (67), the second highest number come, surprisingly, from Germany with 18 unique recordings. Next up is the USA with 15 versions, presumably due to the song’s ties to the stateside hit film O’Cangaceiro. Why though was ‘Mulher Rendeira’ such a hit in Germany?
The first Germanic version was recorded just one year after the release of the Baretto’s international hit film in 1953 and performed by the German virtuoso jazz violinist Helmut Zacharias. Zacharias had signed a contract with Polydor in the 50s and went on to release his own versions of classic tunes to which we can attribute his version of ‘Mulher Rendeira’, released as ‘O Cangaceiro’. It is hard to find the audio of Zacharias’ original yet over the next few years in Germany the song was covered and re-released by artists like Bruce Low (1961), Bert Kaempfert (1963) and James Last (1968). The German versions vaguely resemble Zé do Norte’s arrangement in style (toning the song down and smoothing its edges somewhat) whilst the lyrics have been once more translated, this time into German.The translation of the lyrics for the original German version seems to be attributed to German arranger Hans Bradtke.
The song quickly became not only become an established easy-listening classic but also made the transition into the Schlager genre which losely translates as “Hit” and is characterised as having simple, memorable melodies, sentimental lyrics and being very poppy. ‘Ole O Cangaceiro’ was adapted by schlagerists Roy Black (1969) and Heino (1995). Perhaps due to its meloduc simplicity and slightly exotic theme, ‘Mulher Rendera’ in a German context became a popular standard. I leave you with this gem of a German cover by Tony Marshall from 2006 (the lyrics are something to do with a dancing bear?! Note how Ole becomes a signifier of Latinism) which is somehow related to the original through the melody but more on ‘Mulher Rendeira’s’ melodic journey next time!