Lamartine Babo had the privilege of having a musical family. His father, Leopoldo de Azeredo Babo, was a chorão (member of a choro group), and his home was frequented by Ernesto Nazareth and Catulo da Paixão Cearense. His mother, Bernardina Gonçalves Babo, and his sisters, played the piano in those times prior to the electric mass-communication media. So he forged his musical sensibility having this dual experience: at home, as a little child, he came to know those sometimes romantic (mazurkas, schottisches, etc.), sometimes jumpy compositions (maxixe) that, being a synthesis of European repertoire and Brazilian style of execution, were the precursors of modern urban Brazilian music, samba and choro. And, at his teens, he'd come to get in close contact with the nascent cultural industry brought by the records of Casa Edison and the radio airwaves, coming in contact with American fox and other urban genres.
As a son of a medium-class family, he was raised in a protected environment, and came to complete his high-school studies. Until then, he had already composed "Pandorama," winning a bet with his pals that he could create a melody with only tones G, C and E. Also, he had composed poem "O frade que pedia esmola," his first valse, "Torturas de amor," dedicated to his father, who would die in that year (1917), and, at fifteen, "Ave Maria," religious piece incorporated in the Holy Communion rituals practiced in Brazil, and "Hino do Jubileu Episcopal," these two, of Catholic inspiration, due to the inducement of his religious school, Colégio São Bento.
Finishing his high-school studies, he had to start working as office-boy for Light Company because of the hard situation of his family after his father's demise. But he would always go to the city's theaters to listen to the divas of the operettas, such as Wanda Rooms, Clara Weiss and Franca Boni. He felt in love with this style, and early in 1920, without even reading or having studied music, he composed his first operetta "Cibele." He would compose other two: "Viva o amor" and "Lola," but none of them would come to be produced.
As a young man, he came to know the Bohemian habits of the musicians, and, avid for an opportunity in the show business, was always aware of good connections. As a jocose, extroverted guy, made friends quickly with people like the composer Eduardo Souto, owner of Casa Carlos Gomes, sheet music publishing house. Using his ability for humor, he'd join Bastos Tigre's magazine Dom Quixote as contributor, writing satires and critics. The year after would caught him writing in the same vein for magazines Paratodos and Shimmy, under pseudonyms Frei Caneca, Poeta Cinzento, T. Mixto, Janeiro Ramos and other epithets.
After an argument with his boss in the Light Company, was summarily fired, and soon was employed in an insurance company, where he wouldn't last. As he had started to write for the fashionable comic plays and musicals that were beginning to take Brazil as a fever, and quickly became a professional, much for his enjoyment. After all those years in a religious school and performing bureaucratic jobs, he was suddenly working amidst leg-naked chorus girls and Bohemian friends.
In 1922 wrote a song for play Agüenta Filipe, but in 1925 he started to achieve professional reputation with a couple of songs each for Prestes a Chegar, Vai quebrar, É da pontinha, Paulista de Macaé and Vai haver o diabo, writing at the same time his own plays, such as Pequeno Polegar, Este mundo vai mal and Ouro à beça. This was when his friend Eduardo Souto invited him to join his "blocos" ("blocks" of people who played in the streets). Souto used to promote his publishing business through these blocos which played at the religious party of the Penha, in October, and other parties preceding Carnival.
After the first experience in 1924, Lamartine would be taken by the joy of the experience, and started to write his own Carnival music for various ranchos (another kind of religious procession that turned into profane manifestation), as the Recreio das Flores, Africanos, Jardim dos Amores and Ameno Resedá. His marchinha "Foi você" had some acclamation.
In 1927, he'd join the bloco of Careca (Luís Nunes Sampaio). Careca had won the Carnival contests of 1920, 1922 and 1924. He'd soon know the strength of Babo's, as his next composition, "Os calças-largas," made enormous success in the recording by baritone Frederico Rocha for Odeon.
The decade of 1930 brought many changes to Brazil, spoken movies between them. The novelty of English music and language triggered the satiric vein of the popular composers: "Alô Jone" (Jurandir Santos); "Good-Bye" (Assis Valente); "Não tem tradução" (Noel Rosa); and, last but not least, "Canção para inglês ver" (Lamartine Babo). The newly established radio craze produced, in its turn, another array of changes in the Brazilian popular music's consumption model. The editors and labels didn't need to promote their music through blocos; now they could reach instantly all the city, which started to produce the first widely known idols of popular music. The very Lamartine, accompanied by the great composer, pianist and radio man Ary Barroso, began to make himself known through a show at the Rádio Educadora, where he'd sing and tell jokes.
At the same time, the marchinha, as an style exclusively produced as Carnival soundtrack since Chiquinha Gonzaga's "O abre alas," gained expression and legitimacy in the 20's, but achieved explosive success in the decade of 1930. Lamartine would be an exponential figure in the Brazilian Carnival, composing several hits, immortal songs remembered each year until today. In 1930, won magazine O Cruzeiro's contest with the marchinha "Bota o feijão no fogo." In 1931, won the Casa Edison's contest with "Bonde errado," having had a good response for "Lua cor de prata," "Minha cabrocha" and "O babado foi-se." His fame grew constantly, and he had the great hit in 1932, when his samba "Só dando com uma pedra nela," sung by Mário Reis, dominated the airwaves. With Noel Rosa wrote another hit, "A E I O U," and conquered history definitively with "O teu cabelo não nega," in 1932. But this song carries a controversy, as it was sent to Victor by their composers, the Valença brothers, and Victor committed Babo of making a success out of that unpolished melody (for commercial purposes) and lyrics. Babo kept the chorus and changed the rhythm and the rest of the lyrics. The song was published as if it were only his, what triggered a legal dispute won by the Valenças.
1933 knew his hits "Linda morena," "Moleque indigesto," "A tua vida é um segredo," "Aí, hein?," and "Boa bola" (the last two with Paulo Valença). In 1934, had the usual success with "Uma andorinha não faz verão" (with João de Barro), and the marchinha "Ride Palhaço," based in the opera "Pagliacci" (Leoncavallo). Won again the Carnival in 1935, with "Grau dez" (with Ary Barroso) and "Rasguei a minha fantasia," and in 1936, with "Marchinha do Grande Galo" (with Paulo Barbosa).
After 1937, he decreased his production of marchinhas and began to write hits in samba-canção style. "Cessa tudo" (com Celso Macedo), recorded by Sílvio Caldas, and "Voltei a cantar," interpreted by Mário Reis in Babo's show Joujoux et balangandans, both from 1939. "Joujoux et balangandans" and other six waltzes ("Seis valsas das flores") wrote by him were part of that show of which he was the musical director.
From 1933 to 1937 was an exclusive radio artist for Rádio Mayrink Veiga. He carried there his shows Clube da meia-noite and Canção do dia. In this one, he presented one unpublished song for each show. Changing for Rádio Nacional in 1937, produced Clube dos Fantasmas and the series Vida Pitoresca and Musical dos Compositores da nossa Música Popular. His wonderful radio show Trem da Alegria, from 1942, became one of the most important Brazilian shows, broadcast by several outings; his Trio de Osso (Héber de Boscoli, Iara Sales and he himself) opened in this show.
Lamartine had a great passion for soccer. He wrote all of the official Carioca clubs' hymns. Within his broad style palette it fit música juninas, Christmas songs, versions and parodies. Appeared in the movie Alô, Alô, Carnaval (directed by Wallace Downey, 1936) singing with Almirante his marchinha "As armas e os barões assinalados." Produced TV shows, was a recording company producer, wrote humor and poetry books.
In 1959 he scored another Carnival hit with marcha-rancho "Os Rouxinóis." He'd still write two other Carnival marchas, 1961's "Ressurreição dos velhos carnavais," and 1963's "Seja lá o que Deus quiser." In this very year, the famous producer Carlos Machado carried at the boîte Golden Room the show O teu cabelo não nega, a tribute to Lamartine Babo. Extremely agitated in the first rehearsal he witnessed, at June 13, 1963, he startled Machado who knew he had a cardiac illness. He took him by the arm and urged him to go away until the recording of three songs for the show, some days later. At the exit, Lamartine would still exercise his crush for puns: being interviewed by a TV reporter that had gone to the Copacabana Palace to meet Machado and decided to utilize the opportunity, Babo asked if the interview would be aired in that same day. The reporter answered that it wouldn't, as they already have the one with Tom Jobim, who had arrived that same day from the U.S. "Ah", replied, "that means that now I'm two steps below? (um tom abaixo?). Lamartine Babo, or Lalá, as he was affectionately called, would't live to see his tribute's opening: he died of a stroke caused by the emotion of the homage at June 16, 1963. In 1993, Banco Real issued the CD Cadu: Lamartine Babo-Músicas inéditas e raras.