Heitor dos Prazeres wrote classic sambas and was also considered to be one of the best primitivist painters of Brazil. He was also one of the creators of the Carioca samba school movement, founding several of them. Together with Rubem Barcelos, Alcebíades Barcelos (Bide), and Newton Bastos, he founded the first samba school ever to employ that denomination, the Escola de Samba Deixa Falar (Estácio), in 1928, and the União do Estácio in the same year. Some weeks later, he co-founded the Portela and the Estação Primeira de Mangueira.
Son of a military musician, Prazeres learned the cavaquinho by himself at age seven. At 14, he was a regular in the rodas de choro (choro get-togethers) and in the seminal samba redoubt, the Tia Ciata's house, being consecrated as a master of the instrument. Later he would add the banjo to his bag of skills. His first compositions are also from 1912: "Ô Limoeiro, Limão" and "Adeus, Oculó." In 1927, he won a samba contest promoted by a Carioca newspaper with "A Tristeza Me Persegue" (released many years after in the Fermata 1970 LP Portela, Passado de Glória). In the same year, Francisco Alves recorded "Ora Vejam Só" and "Cassino Maxixe" (the first version of "Gosto Que Me Enrosco"). The songs had the authorship attributed to Sinhô, which yielded a dispute between the two composers, as Heitor claimed the songs to be his, only with minor changes by Sinhô. In that occasion, Sinhô delivered his famous statement, that "sambas are like birds, they are owned by the ones who take them." The affair also yielded two sambas, "Segura O Boi" (Sinhô) and "Olha Ele, Cuidado" (Heitor dos Prazeres). In 1929, a new clash with Sinhô: Mário Reis recorded "Gosto Que Me Enrosco" in its definitive version and title, again with authorship by Sinhô. Heitor then wrote the "Rei Dos Meus Sambas" in retaliation. "Deixaste Meu Lar" (with only Francisco Alves's name in the record) followed, recorded by Mário Reis and re-recorded by Alves in 1930. Then came the masterpiece "Mulher de Malandro" (which won the first official Carnival contest in 1932, with Francisco Alves's recording). Among his many compositions, "Estás Farta de Falar da Minha Vida," "Canção do Jornaleiro," "Pierrô Apaixonado" (with Noel Rosa, recorded with great success by Joel e Gaúcho in 1936, through Victor), "Lá em Mangueira" (with Herivelto Martins, recorded by the Trio de Ouro in 1943), and "Sou Eu Quem Dou As Ordens" deserve mention. But Prazeres also was a master of painting and in 1951, he took part in São Paulo's I Bienal de Arte. He also exhibited in the 1953 and 1961 Biennials. In 1966, he represented Brazil as a painter in the Black Arts Festival of Dakar, Senegal. His themes are the lives of the Carioca malandros, mulatas, and workmen.
In 1931, Prazeres left the samba schools and joined Rádio Educadora, soon followed by radios Sociedade, Clube, and Philips, where he worked in the famous Programa Casé. He formed a female choir to accompany him and performed under the denomination Heitor e Sua Gente. In 1933, his "Canção do Jornaleiro" was recorded with great success by the boy Jonas Tinoco. As a regular member of the cast of the Rádio Nacional, he was a percussion player. In 1941, he participated in the seminal radio program A Voz do Morro, at the Rádio Cruzeiro do Sul, with Cartola and Paulo da Portela. In the following year, as Grupo Carioca, the three of them performed in São Paulo. Heitor dos Prazeres left more than 129 recorded songs.