Paulo Vanzolini, with Adoniran Barbosa, is acknowledged as the biggest representative of the samba of São Paulo. A physician by education (1947) and a zoologist (acknowledged internationally as one of the most eminent) by profession, Vanzolini nevertheless also kept bohemian habits throughout his youth and maturity, always having been connected with music and malandragem (street smarts). Having started to write sambas in the 1940s, soon he proved to be a talented verse improviser; his lyrics are chronicles both of the bohemian and urban São Paulo and of the upstate way of life. As a composer, his biggest hits are the samba "Volta por Cima," launched in 1962 by Noite Ilustrada (and later re-recorded, among many others, by Maria Bethânia) and included in Gláuber Rocha's O Dragão da Maldade contra o Santo Guerreiro (1969, with Rocha being awarded as the Best Director atthe Cannes Film Festival); and the samba-canção "Ronda," written in 1945 and launched by Inesita Barroso in 1953, being highly popular until today and becoming an anthem of the city of São Paulo. The song became successful in Márcia's re-recording in the 1960s, also recorded later by Maria Bethânia (on her LP Álibi, a top-seller of 1978), Nora Ney, Carmen Costa, and Ângela Maria, among others. In 1967, Vanzolini's friend and partner Luís Carlos Paraná and Marcus Pereira produced for Fermata the LP Paulo Vanzolini: Onze Sambas e Uma Capoeira, on which Vanzolini's songs were interpreted by Chico Buarque, Luís Carlos Paraná, and other artists.
Writing lyrics and melodies by himself, Vanzolini also had partnerships with Toquinho, in the mid-'60s, before the composer formed his duo with Vinícius de Moraes. In 1967, Vanzolini and Toquinho participated in the II Festival Internacional da Canção (International Song Festival, FIC, TV Globo) with one of those songs, "Na Boca da Noite," winning the São Paulo stage. Vanzolini also had as partners Luís Carlos Paraná, Paulinho Nogueira, Adauto Santos, and Elton Medeiros. In 1974, Cristina Buarque named her first LP, Cara Limpa, after the title of a Paulo Vanzolini samba. The label Marcus Pereira launched in that same year the LP A Música de Paulo Vanzolini, interpreted by Carmen Costa and Paulo Marques. In 1997, Vanzolini was paid tribute at the University of São Paulo with a show which launched previously unpublished compositions like "Quando Eu For, Eu Vou Sem Pena." Two years later, he was again paid homage during the commemorations of the 447th anniversary of the city of São Paulo in a show at the Sesc Pompéia hall. In 2001, Vanzolini's complete works began to be recorded by selected interpreters for a four-CD box set.