A Rã was introduced in September of 1967 by Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66 on the single The Frog b/w Watch What Happens, heralding the group’s third album Look Around.
Initially, the song was performed as an instrumental with vocal improvisation titled O Sapo or The Frog (even though sapo means toad). Allegedly, João Donato composed the song while taking a bath at the house of one of the female singers of Brazil ’66, imitating the croaking of a frog while playing the song on guitar. When Donato introduced the melody of only four notes to Sérgio Mendes, he immediately liked it so much he chose it as the opening track of Look Around.
However, it took three years until A Rã was recorded by João Donato himself in 1970. The same year, it was also first recorded by another artist, by João Gilberto as O Sapo. Only when Caetano Veloso added the lyrics in 1972 the title was changed to A Rã (meaning frog). This lyricized version was probably first recorded by Gal Costa, arranged by João Donato himself. Apparently, Veloso did not record the song until 2006.
In 1973, at a time Donato felt that “bossa nova wasn’t his thing anymore”, he re-recorded A Rã on A Bad Donato, an album that is considered a jazz-funk fusion benchmark featuring Bud Shank as well as fellow Brazilians like Dom Um Romão and Oscar Castro Neves.
Selected recordings of O Sapo a.k.a. A Rã:
1. Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66 from the single The Frog b/w Watch What Happens (1967, Fermata FB-33.235) and the album Look Around (1968, Fermata FB 217)
2. João Gilberto from the album João Gilberto en México (1970, Orpheon/Tapecar LP-12.717) aka João Gilberto (1970, Philips SLP 199.055)
3. João Donato from the album Quem é Quem (1973, Odeon SMOFB 3785)
4. Gal Costa from the album Cantar (1974, Philips 6349 117)
5. Conjunto Aquarius from the album Aquarius (1976, Continental 1.07.405.098)
Versions of O Sapo a.k.a. A Rã originally not issued in Brazil:
1. João Donato from the album A Bad Donato (1970, Blue Thumb Records [USA] 21)
Coro de cor • Sombra de som de cor • De mal me quer • De mal me quer de bem • De bem me diz • De me dizendo assim • Serei feliz • Serei feliz de flor • De flor em flor • De samba em samba em som • De vai e vem • De verde verde ver • Pé de capim • Bico de pena pio • De bem te vi • Amanhecendo sim • Perto de mim • Perto da claridade • Da manhã • A grama a lama tudo • É minha irmã • A rama o sapo o salto • De uma rã