Noel de Medeiros Rosa (December 11, 1910 – May 4, 1937) was a Brazilian songwriter, singer, and guitar/mandolin player. One of the greatest names in Brazilian popular music, Noel gave a new twist to samba, combining its Afro-Brazilian roots with a more urban, witty language and making it a vehicle for ironic social commentary.
Rosa was born in Rio de Janeiro into a middle-class family of the Vila Isabel neighbourhood. An accident with a forceps at his birth caused a disfigured chin. He learned to play the mandolin while still a teenager, and soon moved on to the guitar.
Although Noel started medicine studies, he gave most of his attention to music and would spend whole nights in bars drinking and playing with other samba musicians. Together with Braguinha and Almirante he formed the musical group Bando de Tangarás.
Soon he started composing sambas, and he had his breakthrough with “Com que roupa?”, one of the biggest hits of 1931 and the first in a string of memorable compositions. Noel was a good friend of Cartola, who took care of him several times at his house on the Mangueira slum after some nights of heavy drinking. In the early 1930s Noel Rosa started to show signs of tuberculosis.
He would occasionally leave for treatment in mountain resorts, but always ended up coming back to Rio and the nightlife.
In 1934 he married Lindaura Martins, a seventeen-year-old neighbour, but that didn’t keep him from having affairs with other women. he was a heavy smoker, and most of his photographs show him with a cigarette hanging from his lower lip. By the later 1930s his health had seriously deteriorated, and he died in 1937 at the age of 26.