As one of Brazil's oldest composers, with more than 500 recorded songs, João de Barro is also the most supportive of the cause for Carnaval: Every year since 1930 until the late '70s, he composed a song for the feast. His extremely successful career includes such hits as "Chiquita Bacana," "Yes, nós Temos Bananas," "Pastorinhas," "Touradas em Madrid" ("Matador"), and "Linda Lourinha," just to mention his Carnaval hits. "Copacabana" was recorded by more than 30 interpreters, including Frank Sinatra.
Braguinha (his other nickname) was soon influenced by his grandma, who played the piano. As a child, he used to sing accompanied by her. In Colégio Batista, he formed the group Flor do Tempo, which included other musicians who also were important: Henrique Brito, Alvinho (Álvaro Miranda Ribeiro), and Almirante (Henrique Foréis). He wrote his first songs by then, in partnership with Henrique Brito, who was a poor student sent to Rio by the Rio Grande do Norte (Northeast) government to study, as he was such a talent in music. Henrique came by train with a terrible violão (acoustic guitar) and the strings on it broke one by one. Arriving in Rio, he had only the first left and one string he'd play until de Barro's father bought him a new violão on which he teach de Barro. With the success enjoyed by the group at family and school parties, they decided to become professionals and changed the group's name to Bando de Tangarás, which soon included Noel Rosa. In 1930, they scored their first big hit with the classic "Na Pavuna" (Almirante/Homero Dornelas), and in that same year, he had his first recorded composition, "Dona Antônia," also by Bando de Tangarás. De Barro recorded several times with that group before debuting on a solo recording in 1931 with "Cor de Prata" and "Minha Cabroxa," two songs by Lamartine Babo. Those were times when the standard for singers was extremely high and the competition was Francisco Alves, Sílvio Caldas, Orlando Silva, Mário Reis, and the like. Though no one criticized him, he decided to stop singing and concentrate in composition. But soon, in 1933, he enjoyed his first Carnaval hits: "Trem Blindado" and "Moreninha da Praia," recorded by Almirante. In 1934, Lamartine Babo asked de Barro permission to change his "Uma Andorinha Não Faz Verão," adapting it to Carnaval. Recorded by Mário Reis, it was a big hit that year. Also that year, the march "Linda Lourinha" was his greatest success until then in the voice of Sílvio Caldas. Issued in 1935, "Deixa a Lua Sossegada" was the first composition and first hit with new partner Alberto Ribeiro, marking the beginning of a long series of successes. That year, he and Ribeiro wrote the plot for the movie Alô, Alô Brasil and both co-directed it with Wallace Downey. Also that year, they wrote the plot for Estudantes (directed by Downey); the next year, the plot for Alô, Alô, Carnaval (directed by Ademar Gonzaga); and, the next year, on his own wrote the plot for João Ninguém (directed by Mesquitinha). In 1936, his marches "Linda Mimi," "Cadê Mimi" (Barro/Ribeiro) (recorded by Mário Reis), "Maria, Acorda Que é Dia" (Barro/Ribeiro) (recorded by Joel e Gaúcho), "Pirata" (Barro/Ribeiro) and "Muito Riso, Pouco Siso" (Barro/Ribeiro) were both recorded by Dircinha Batista, and were all hits. In 1937, "Por um Ovo Só" (Barro/Ribeiro) (recorded by Almirante) and "Minha Terra tem Palmeiras" (Barro/Ribeiro) (recorded by Carmen Miranda) were popular on a national level. In 1938, he won the Rio mayoralty's carnival contest with paso-doble "Touradas em Madri" (Barro/Ribeiro), but the contest was invalidated as the rhythm wasn't one of the required: samba or marcha. A new contest 15 days later confirmed again de Barro as the winner, this time with "Pastorinhas," which was the same song as "Linda Pequena," composed in partnership with Noel Rosa and recorded without success by João Petra de Barros. Prominent composer Nássara accused him of usurpation and it ended in a street fight. This same year, he composed the march "Yes, nós Temos Bananas" (Barro/Ribeiro), which, recorded by Almirante, was a big hit at that Carnival. He also wrote the plot for the movie Banana da Terra, directed by J. Rui. In 1939, he composed with Ribeiro the marches "Sem Banana," "Marcha Para o Oeste" (both recorded by Carlos Galhardo), "Menina do Regimento" (recorded by Aurora Miranda), and "Pirulito" (recorded by Nilton Paz). That year, he was hired as artistic director for Columbia Records and also wrote the script and directed the movie Anastácio. In 1940, he wrote the lyrics for Alcir Pires Vermelho's song "A Dama das Camélias," recorded with success by Francisco Alves, and also "Dona Rita," with the same partner and singer. He also wrote "Dança do Bole-Bole," recorded by Carmem Barbosa, and composed the march "Quando a Violeta se Casou" (Barro/Ribeiro/Vermelho), recorded by the same singer. He also started to write songs for children. In 1941, the march "Quebra Tudo" (Barro/Ribeiro) was a big success in the recording by Anjos do Inferno, and he also wrote the soundtrack for the movie Laranja da China (directed by J. Rui). In 1943, he satirized Hitler with "Adolfito Mata-Mouros" (Barro/Ribeiro) and Japan (for the war against China) with "China Pau" (Barro/Ribeiro), recorded by Orlando Silva and Castro Barbosa, respectively. Leaving Columbia, he moved to the same function at Continental Records, where he'd stay for 22 years. There he issued several records with adaptations for children's tales: Branca de Neve e os Sete Anões (two records with Carlos Galhardo, Dalva de Oliveira, and Os Trovadores, 1945); Chapeuzinho Vermelho (1946), and Cantigas de Roda (1950), all three scored and composed by Radamés Gnatalli. In 1944, he wrote the soundtrack for the movie Abacaxi azul, directed by J. Rui. The song "Copacabana (Barro/Ribeiro), recorded by Dick Farney, was a major hit. In 1947, his march "Pirata da Perna de Pau," recorded by Nuno Roland, achieved great success in Portugal. He also wrote "Anda Luzia," recorded by Sílvio Caldas. In 1948, he had several hits with the marches "A Mulata é a Tal" (Barro/Antônio Almeida), recorded by Rui Rei; "Tem Gato na Tuba" (Barro/Ribeiro), recorded by Nuno Roland; "O Que Que Há?" (the only one under the pseudonym Furnarius Rufus, the scientific name for a bird), recorded by Jorge Veiga. 1949 brought the biggest hit of his partnership with Ribeiro, "Chiquita Bacana," recorded by Emilinha Borba. He also wrote "Serenata Chinesa" and "Corsário" (Barro/Ribeiro), both recorded by Nuno Roland; "Legionário" (with José Maria de Abreu), recorded by Rui Rei; "Vote! Que Mulher Bonita!" (with Antônio Almeida), recorded by Blecaute; "O Circo Chegou" (with Ribeiro and Antônio Almeida), recorded by Sílvio Caldas; and the sambas "Rosa Tirana" (Barro/Ribeiro), recorded by Deo; and "Tem Marujo no Samba," recorded by Emilinha Borba and Nuno Roland. In 1950, he wrote with Antônio Almeida the march "Lancha Nova," recorded by Nuno Roland and Trio Melodia. With Alberto Ribeiro, he wrote songs for the movies Beleza do Diabo (by Romain Lessage, 1952) and Eva no Brasil (by Pierre Caron, 1956). In 1957, he scored another hit with the march "Vai Com Jeito," recorded by Emilinha Borba. In 1965, he left Continental and founded Todamérica. In 1968, he appeared in the play Yes, nós Temos Braguinha (directed by Sidney Miller and Paulo Afonso Grisolli) at the theater Casa Grande in Rio. In 1975, he appeared in the show O Rio Amanheceu Cantando for the opening of the nightclub Vivará in Rio, together with Elisete Cardoso, MPB-4, and Quarteto em Cy. In 1976, his children's records reached the respectable cipher of five million sold. The adaptation of 1979's child tale Viveiro dos Pássaros was adapted for theater, played by Grande Otelo and Josephine Hélène at Teatro Casa Grande. "Balancê" (Barro/Ribeiro, 1937) was re-recorded by Gal Costa in 1979, with great success. He continued writing marches, including "Funciona Cocota" (1977, with Jota Júnior), "Bebê de Proveta" (1979), "Pacote de Mulher" (1980), and "Raminho de Café" (1981). He also wrote the marchas-rancho "Saudosismo" (1983) and "Vagalume" (1985, with César Costa Filho). In 1983, Ricardo Cravo Albin directed the show Viva Braguinha with de Barro, Miúcha, and Coisas Nossas. In 1985, he was awarded with the Prêmio Shell, and at the ceremony at the Teatro Municipal, the show Viva Braguinha was re-enacted. In 1984, the samba school Estação Primeira de Mangueira won the Carnival contest with him as the theme for the samba-enredo.