70th Birthday Party for Brazilian Soul Pioneer

Brazilian Joel Stones, owner of music store Tropicalia in Furs in the East Village, showcases Tim Maia’s rare 1975 record, “Racional.” (Photo by Skyler Reid)

Poster promoting Maia’s 70th birthday celebration taking place in 11 cities. (Photo by Skyler Reid)

Joel Stones, the owner of the East Village Brazilian music store Tropicalia in Furs, grew up listening to Tim Maia.

“Do you remember the first time you grabbed a baby bottle?” he asks rhetorically. “I can’t remember the first time I heard Tim Maia.”

That’s because back home in Stones’ native Brazil, Maia, who died onstage in 1998 at age 55, is a legendary figure, both for his pioneering music style — a Brazilian take on American soul, or Brazilian soul — and his personal adventures and excesses.

So it’s fitting that Stones is spearheading a multi-city bash Sept. 28, in what would have been Maia’s 70th birthday. In New York, the festa will be marked at Tropicalia in Furs, Stones’ 10-year-old haven for rare vinyl records at 304 E. Fifth St., with another 10 cities in the U.S. and beyond joining in.

“It will be wicked!” says Stones, who resembles a younger and slimmer version of his idol. “People all over the world were influenced by Tim Maia’s music.”

Widely considered a brilliant musician and father of Brazilian soul who sang both in Portuguese and English, Maia stood out for many reasons. He was a 250 lbs., 5’7” character with a huge afro who joined a UFO cult and was married five times.

His most acclaimed album, “Racional,” was recorded during the two years that he belonged to the religious-alien cult Rational Culture. He later tried to vanish the recording and burn all existing copies. The few surviving copies, one of which Stones has in his collection, can fetch $1,000.

Maia was once a New York resident, arriving in the city from Rio de Janeiro at 17 in 1959 with dreams of starting a music career. But he worked odd jobs, ended up arrested for smoking pot in a stolen car and was deported in 1964. Yet, during this time, he was heavily influenced by music here.

“Maia took American soul music to Brazil and added some Brazilian elements to it and that’s what makes him so special,” explains Stones, who guards his age calling it only “infinite.”

Back home, a duel with Brazilian star Elis Regina in 1969, propelled Maia’s rise to stardom.

The birthday celebrations coincide with the release next week of a bilingual collection of his best recordings, “Nobody Can Live Forever: The Existential Soul of Tim Maia,” on the Luaka Bop label.

“It really makes a big difference to people that the record also has songs in English,” says Yale Evelev, co-owner of Luaka Bop. “We have been working on this compilation of songs for 10 years.”

The album, in vinyl, will be on sale at Tropicalia in Fur during the party that is set for 8 p.m. Other cities hosting similar events include Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC, London, Berlin and Melbourne.

Stones promises a lively night at his hole-in-the-wall store with cachaca shots in glasses customized with Maia’s headshot, a trio playing the star’s music and fans dancing to hits like “No Caminho do Bem”, “Do Leme ao Pontal” and “Rational Culture.”

“We will even have birthday balloons and a birthday cake with Tim Maia’s face in it,” says Stones. “It is a birthday party after all!”


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