The Grammy-winning artist was instrumental in popularizing the bossa nova music style around the world.
SAO PAULO - Brazilian musician João Gilberto, 88, who developed bossa nova music and helped turn the style into a worldwide craze, died on Saturday afternoon in his house in Rio de Janeiro, relatives confirmed through messages in social media.
His son Marcelo Gilberto said on Facebook "his fight was noble and he tried to maintain dignity". His daughter in law wrote: "Deep sadness. All he wanted was to be with us and to play with his granddaughter".
The family did not disclose the cause of death.
Brazilian artists paid tribute to one of the country's most well-known artists. Singer Gal Costa said Brazil lost "its biggest music genius. His legacy is huge to Brazil and the world". Critic Zuza Homem de Mello told Globonews TV station that Gilberto was responsible for making Brazilian music known worldwide.
Born in Bahia, a northeastern Brazilian state, João Gilberto Prado de Oliveira began singing at 18. After moving to Rio de Janeiro, he released the record "Chega de Saudade" in 1959, which marked the beginning of the world-famous bossa nova music style.
His 1964 album "Getz/Gilberto" with American saxophone player Stan Getz sold millions of copies, won several Grammy awards and popularized bossa nova around the world.
The album featured the song "The Girl from Ipanema" by musician Antonio Carlos Jobim and poet Vinicius de Moraes, sung in Portuguese by Gilberto and in English by his first wife, Astrud Gilberto. The song became a global hit and a jazz standard.
Joao Gilberto was married three times, first to Astrud Gilberto and then to the singer, Miucha, and later to his manager Claudia Faissol. He is survived by a son, João Marcelo, and daughters Luiza and Bebel Gilberto, also a singer.
His last concert was in 2008. He did not leave his apartment during his last years, which also were market by court disputes between his children.