Early life and career
Rita Lee was born in São Paulo, Brazil, to an American Brazilian father, Charles Fenley Jones, a dentist descended from the Confederados, and Romilda Padula, a Brazilian mother of Italian ancestry. She was educated in a French language school and became fluent in Spanish, French and Italian, as well as her native Portuguese and the English that her parents spoke at home. She went to college, where she was a colleague of the popular actress Regina Duarte, but she soon left to pursue her musical career.In 1966 Lee formed the band Os Mutantes with Arnaldo Baptista and Sérgio Dias. The band released five albums between 1968 and 1972. In that time, Lee had also released her first two solo works, although these records were produced with fellow members of Os Mutantes. When the band reformed in 2006, she refused to join, calling the reunion an attempt to "earn cash to pay for geriatry".The daughter of an amateur female pianist, she never took music lessons. In place of the traditional adolescent debut ball, she asked to receive a drum set. Lee formed a band with two other friends and they were quite good at vocals, backing stars like Tony Campelo, Jet Blacks, Demetrius, and Prini Lopez, when they met the brothers Arnaldo and Sérgio Dias Baptista. Adopting the name O'Seis (a pun with "the six" and the Brazilian redneck way of saying "you all"), they recorded the single "O Suicida," which was never released. When the rest of the band left for college, only three of them remained. Picking the name Os Mutantes, they backed Nana Caymmi on her then-husband's composition "Bom Dia" (Gilberto Gil). When Gil met them, he immediately knew that Os Mutantes were on the same track as the Baianos. Inviting them to accompany him at TV Record's 1967 III FMPB, they won second place for Gil's "Domingo no Parque" with the addition of Rogério Duprat conducting an orchestra with his revolutionary arrangements. The novelty of electric guitars and a generalized irreverence of the mixing of strange orchestral sounds irritated the audience a great deal; the nascent Tropicalia was coming to the world under heavy booing. Soon after, they recorded their single "O Relógio."In 1968, they performed on the album/manifesto Tropicália ou Panis et Circensis
(Philips), with Nara Leão, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, and Tom Zé. This was also when they recorded their first LP, Os Mutantes
. Also in 1968, they accompanied Caetano to TV Globo's III FIC, on his "É Proibido Proibir" and performed their "Caminhante Noturno," which won seventh place. In the same year, they participated at the IV FMPB with their "Dom Quixote" and, by Lee and Tom Zé, "2001." At the end of this year, they performed with the Baianos at the Sucata nightclub, Rio, and recorded their second album, also self-titled.In 1969, they went to Europe, playing at Cannes, France, at the MIDEM, and in Lisbon, Portugal. Then, they returned to Brazil and set the show O Planeta dos Mutantes, the first multi-media experiment in Brazil. With bassist Liminha and drummer Dinho, they participated in the V FIC with "Ando Meio Desligado" (Arnaldo and Rita).In 1970, Lee recorded her solo album, Build Up
, produced by Arnaldo Baptista. Soon after, they had a stint at the Olympia in Paris, France. In that period, during their somewhat frequent tours of Europe, they recorded an LP that was never fully released, 'Tecnicolor', with the exception of some tracks included on 1971's Jardim Elétrico
. The LP, A Divina Comédia ou Ando Meio Desligado
is from that year and Jardim Elétrico
(Polydor) from the next. In 1972, Lee recorded another solo album backed by the Os Mutantes, Hoje É o Primeiro Dia do Resto da Sua Vida
(Philips). After releasing the Mutantes e Seus Cometas no País do Baurets
, Lee departed from the group. Following a period of depression, during which she became locked up in her home, she decided to abandon her career. But, at the same time, she was writing the material that would make her famous as a solo artist.
In late 1972, Lee left Os Mutantes and started a solo career. She was initially part of a female duo with singer Lúcia Turnbull called Cilibrinas do Éden, and after a short time the duo gave birth to the band Rita Lee & Tutti Frutti. This eventually became Lee's backing band. In 1974, the band recorded the first álbum “Atras do Porto Tem Uma Cidade” (There is a City Behind the Harbor) brought some great songs such as “Mamae Natureza”, “Menino Bonito” and “Pe de Meia”. In 1975, she recorded the album Fruto Proibido
with the band. The album was praised by critics, sold more than 200,000 copies - a record to Brazilian rock and roll singers at the time - and Lee was given the title "Queen of Rock". In 2007, the Brazilian edition of Rolling Stone
magazine ranked this album as the 16th best Brazilian album of all time in its "100 Best List". The producer was Andy Mills, producer of Alice Cooper and then Lee's boyfriend.In the late 1970s, Lee started a partnership with her husband, Roberto de Carvalho, and many subsequent albums were credited to the duo Lee/Carvalho. In the late 1970s, Lee was mentioned in the Caetano Veloso song, "Sampa".In 1976, pregnant for the first time, she was arrested for having marijuana and condemned to one year of domiciliary imprisonment, when she composed with Paulo Coelho the single "Arrombou a Festa," which sold 200,000 copies. She continued to perform, under special judge permits. Soon after, she recorded the single "Doce de Pimenta" with singer Elis Regina, and recorded and toured with Gilberto Gil in the show/album "Refestança".In 1978 she released Babilônia
, her fourth and last album with the band Tutti Frutti. The last work came after a lots of disagreements in between members of the band. The guitarist Luis Carlini left the band taking the name Tutti Frutti. Rita and the rest of the band finished the tour under the name "Rita Lee & Caes e Gatos". Lee started recording with her husband, Roberto de Carvalho. The couple wrote hits such as "Mania de Você" (1979), "Lança Perfume" (1980), "Saúde" (1981), "Flagra" (1982) and "On The Rocks" (1983).
Lee was married to Mutante Arnaldo Baptista from 1971 to 1972. In 1976,MPB singer Ney Matogrosso introduced her to guitarist Roberto de Carvalho, whom she married and had three children: Beto Lee, João Lee and Antônio. She's been married to Carvalho for 35 years and refers to him as her "boyfriend".
Aside from her musical career, Lee had a humor program called Radio Amador
on Brazilian radio for nine months in 1986. That same year, Lee wrote three children's books and appeared in Brazilian movies and TV shows. In 1990 she started her own talk show, called TvLeeZão
(a play on "televisão," the Portuguese word for television), on MTV Brasil. From 2002 to 2004 she hosted the Brazilian cable TV talk show Saia Justa
. In 2005 she and her husband started a new talk show, called Madame Lee
. She also made a brief cameo in the 2002 film Durval Discos
. In 2008/2009 she performed a new show called 'Pic Nic Tour.' In 2010, she performed another new show called 'Etc...Tour' revisiting some forgotten songs from her long career. In 2011, she began to produce and record two new albums. The first one with new unreleased songs, the second one called Bossa'n Movies
where she continues the project first stated with Bossa'n Roll
1991, Bossa'n Beatles
(Aqui, ali, em qualquer lugar).In 2011, she contributed the track "Pistis Sophia" to the Red Hot Organization's most recent charitable album, Red Hot+Rio 2.
The album was a follow-up to the 1996 Red Hot + Rio.
Proceeds from the sales were donated to raise awareness and money to fight AIDS and related other health and social issues.