Rest in peace, Lizzie
We have received news that Brazilian Lizzie Bravo from Rio de Janeiro has died in hospital yesterday, at the age of 70, due to complications with her heart disease.
Elizabeth Bravo was born May 29, 1951. An upper middle class girl, she attended Colégio Stella Maris Rio de Janeiro from 1963 to 1965. Elizabeth became an avid fan of The Beatles in 1964, and after her idol John had sung «Dizzie Miss Lizzie» with the Beatles, she started calling herself Lizzie. Together with her friend Denise, she worshipped The Beatles and the two of them was hoping that the group would come to Brazil to give concerts.
When The Beatles in 1966 announced their retirement from touring, the girls realised that they would never get to see them in Brazil. Denise managed to persuade both her own and Lizzie’s parents that it would be a nice 15th birthday present to send the girls to London. Denis travelled there a couple of weeks before Lizzie, because Lizzie had to wait for her father to return home from abroad, since she needed his signature to be able to travel abroad alone. The only purpose of the girls’ trip to London, was to see The Beatles. In February 1967 Lizzie finally arrived in London. She immediately went to EMI’s studio complex in Abbey Road, and that very first day she was able to see all four Beatles, Brian Epstein and Mal Evans. They were recording the «Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band» album at the time, and left EMI Studios at night.
From then on, Lizzie faithfully showed up outside the studio building in Abbey Road on an almost daily basis. The Beatles did their recordings in the afternoons and evenings, not to mention at night, so Lizzie eventually got a job as a maid in a hotel during the day. She was otherwise an upper-middle class girl and at home they had their own maid, so she had never before had to make a bed. The holiday in London became a more permanent stay, now she went home to Rio de Janeiro during the holidays. Otherwise, she was one of the girls hanging around Abbey Road. She sometimes pointed out that she was not one of the “Apple Scruffs” – that was a different gang which used to hang out outside the Apple building in 3, Savile Row. Other times, she embraced that label.
Lizzie and her gang brought with them small cameras with which they used to snap amateur photos of the Beatles whenever they came and went. On February 4, 1968, the Beatles recorded John’s new song, “Across The Universe” in Studio 3. Two takes of the song had already been recorded the day before. During the day’s first session (14.30-17.30) they recorded four more, numbered 4-7; there was no “take 3”. The basic track had Lennon on acoustic guitar, George Harrison playing a tambourine and Ringo Starr on drums.
During the evening session (20.00-22.00), overdubs were made on take 7. Lennon recorded the main vocals, with the tape running slower than usual to raise the pitch during playback. Paul McCartney got the idea to have high pitched girl voices as background singers, but it was too late in the evening to call professional singers. But Paul had another brain storm; perhaps some of the girls hanging around outside the studios could sing?
There were only a handful of fans hanging around, waiting for them to come out that night. It was a Sunday and they were not usually in the studio on the weekends. The doorman had been kind and let them into the building to stay warm. Paul came out of the glass doors and asked, “Can any of you girls hold a high note?” 16-year-old Lizzie went in and asked to bring her friend of 17, Gayleen Pease. Now the girls were used to seeing the Beatles guys almost every day, but this evening was just a much nicer situation since they were inside and not outside the studios. For about two hours, Lizzie and Gayleen were with the Beatles in the studio, singing their contributions. The girls shared a microphone with John and Paul, there were two microphones, Lizzie sang with John first and then they switched, so she sang with Paul.
The incident was mentioned in the March issue of the Beatles Monthly Book, but otherwise there was no fuss about the fact that the girls had been allowed to join in and sing on a Beatles song. And the song was also put on the shelf and remained unreleased.
After the summer of 1969, the Beatles stopped coming to the studios or to Apple as often as before. It was a bit obvious that something was going on. Lizzie wanted to move on with her life. She had been a maid in a third-class hotel, later a housekeeper at a family’s house and still later an au-pair at another family’s house. Now it was time to go home.
Lizzie had a great moment when she heard the finished song on a radio program with DJ Kenny Everett for the first time. In late October 1969, she moved back home to Rio. And on December 12, 1969, “Across The Universe” was finally released on record, The Beatles had given it away to the compilation LP “No One’s Gonna Change Our World”, which was released to raise money for WWF – World Wildlife Foundation. Now everyone could hear Lizzie Bravo and Gayleen Pease singing in the background of this song. But when the song appeared again on the “Let It Be” LP six months later, Phil Spector had removed the girl’s voices, slowed down John’s main voice and also removed the nature sounds.
Lizzie then had a normal life and in the seventies she was living in New York City for a while. Despite the fact that she was now living in the same city as her idol, John Lennon, she didn’t try to get to meet him.
In February 1990, Lizzie attended a press conference Paul McCartney held in Indiana for Brazilian media in conjunction with plans of doing concerts in Brazil. Paul thought the girl looked familiar and asked Lizzy “How come I know you?”, and she told him her story.
Lizzie Bravo was a central person in the Brazilian Beatles Fan Club ever since she returned home. In 2010 a British TV-show from the BBC reunited Lizzie and Gayleen in London, where they once again found themselves back in Abbey Road.
Lizzie had kept the photographs and diary from her stay in London in the sixties, and published this in book form in Portuguese privately, “Do Rio a Abbey Road” in 2015. The 300 pages filled with 200+ unpublished amateur photos was only printed in 1000 copies. During the pandemic, she had a new edition printed – now with a 62×42 cm poster. This too was 1000 copies. The books were not sold through bookstores, only directly from Lizzie, who had created her own online domain LizzieBravo.com for this. She was working on an edition in English, but this was slow work, and she also had to care for her Alzheimer stricken mother in her final years.
Lizzie was a most welcome follower and commentator on Beatles blogs, including this one, and also a very active Facebooker, mainly commenting in Beatles groups and correcting mistakes, when she wasn’t posting Beatles photos or sharing Beatles news. On the same day she suddenly died, October 4th, she had commented on a request for her book on her own Facebook page. Half the edition was sold and she hoped to sell the rest during the year.
The Beatles Brazilian Page posted this message today:
We have the painful mission of spreading very sad news: Lizzie Bravo, our dear Lizzie Bravo, the hope with glasses, passed away this Monday, October 4th, 2021, in Rio de Janeiro. In the weeks following her 70th birthday on May 29, Lizzie began to experience physical difficulties due to a congenital heart problem. Two weeks ago, she spent 4 days at the ICU and had apparently recovered. “The doctor told me I’m going to be fine again…sure, with a bunch of meds,” she told me last week. However, a week ago, Lizzie had to go back to the hospital and, according to Lizzie (who kept us informed via WhatsApp), everything was going well. Today, unfortunately, today came the unexpected news: our dear Lizzie’s heart had stopped.
This is an irreparable loss, not only for Beatlemania Nacional, but also for MPB, since Lizzie Bravo is very important in everything you imagine in good modern Brazilian music, as musician and journalist Edu Henning explains:
“We were privileged to live with Lizzie. Many will remember her as being ‘the Brazilian who sang with the Beatles’. But Lizzie acted as a photographer of a very rich period of Brazilian music (recording important moments in the history of great names in music made in Brazil). She was also a great studio backing vocal (participating in emblematic MPB albums). And toured Brazil and the world as the lead singer of sensational Brazilian singers. She worked with great artists and participated in magnificent projects. So singing with the Beatles was another chapter in Lizzie Bravo’s rich biography. And what a chapter! When Zé Rodrix wrote the phrase ‘hope with glasses’ he didn’t imagine that we would all be contaminated by Lizzie Bravo the way we were.
Well, friends… we can only remember how privileged we are to have lived together at the same time and in the same country as Lizzie Bravo. May our God of goodness guide our biggest star “across the universe” and console the hearts of relatives, friends and fans.
Post script: We later found out that Gayleen Pease, Lizzie’s friend who also sang on Across The Universe passed away in July 2021 from pancreatic cancer, only ten weeks before Lizzie died.
May they both rest in peace.