Sergio Mendes gets "Real" about Oscar race

Wed Feb 15, 2012 4:04pm EST
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By Jordan Riefe

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - At age 71, in a long career with a string of hit songs and movie music behind him, one might think legendary Brazilian composer Sergio Mendes has it all, but he's missing one thing: an Oscar. This year, he might just take one home.

Mendes' song "Real in Rio," which he wrote for animated movie "Rio," has been nominated for one of the film industry's top honors, and odds are good he could win on February 26 when the honors are given out because his category includes only one other entry.

The morning nominations were announced in January, Mendes was awakened by a call from the movie's director, Carlos Saldahna, asking him if he had his tuxedo pressed and ready.

"I couldn't believe it," said Mendes. "I'm still kind of pinching myself. What a wonderful moment of my life."

Mendes has numerous wonderful events to look back on. As a young musician he worked the clubs of Rio de Janeiro and was mentored by the legendary Antonio Carlos Jobim. Later mentors included Herb Alpert who signed Mendes to A&M records.

But writing "Real in Rio" was a special experience for the native of the Brazilian city known for its nightlife, beaches and buoyant human spirit. He said he felt honored to work on it.

"They asked me to write a song that would open the movie," said Mendes. "It kind of goes through the whole movie and at the end it explodes in the Carnival parade. So that's 'Real in Rio."

Mendes moved to the United States in the early 1960s and recorded some music, but it wasn't until he teamed up with star musician Alpert that Mendes' career took off. His first big album was "Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66," which featured the hit single "Mas Que Nada."   Continued...

Brazilian musician Sergio Mendes poses at the 2012 MusiCares Person of the Year tribute honoring Paul McCartney in Los Angeles, February 10, 2012. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok