Semi-literate, the small farmer Antônio Gonçalves da Silva opted for keeping his roots in his land instead of following the destiny of the cantadores, or the people who wander through the dry hinterlands of northeastern Brazil singing their pains. His pseudonym Patativa do Assaré derives from a bird known for its suffering singing. His nationwide attention started with "Triste Partida," a toada de retirante (a doleful song dealing with the abandonment of northeastern Brazil by people running off due to drought) recorded by Luiz Gonzaga with much success. In the late '70s, Fagner recorded his "Vaca Estrela e Boi Fubá" for his album Raimundo Fagner (the song was later re-recorded by Pena Branca e Xavantinho). Fagner presented him for a major audience in shows throughout southeastern Brazil, but Assaré never tried to abandon the harsh life of the arid land in Serra de Santana to embrace the saga of a popular artist.
He had four poetry books released by researchers and friends in small editions, nowadays collectors' items: Inspiração Nordestina (1957), Patativa do Assaré (1970), Canto da Patativa (1976), and Cante Lá Que Eu Canto Cá (1978). His poetry has been studied since the '70s at Sorbonne University's (Paris, France) Universal Popular Literature discipline. In 1979, Assaré recorded the live LP Patativa do Assaré, reading some of his works of poetry at the José de Alencar theater in Fortaleza, Ceará. After the recording ,Assaré did a series of shows with Fagner, with the performance by the duo at the Summer Festival of Guarujá, São Paulo receiving high marks from the press, a period that was marked by Assaré's second LP, A Terra é Naturá. Always making a point to explore social issues in his work, on this album Assaré included "Antônio Conselheiro," which tells the history of the religious fanatic who led to the violent War of Canudos. On March 9, 1994, Assaré turned 85 years of age and was paid tribute on the LP Patativa do Assaré/85 Anos de Poesia.