Jorge Manuel de Abreu Palma (born 4 June 1950) is a Portuguese singer and songwriter. A well-known and acclaimed songwriter in Portugal, Palma has achieved success with songs such as “Deixa-me Rir”, “Frágil” and “Encosta-te a Mim”.
Jorge Palma was born in Lisbon on 4 June 1950. At the age of 6, Palma learned to play the piano and to read. When he was 8 years old, he performed his first piano audition in the Portuguese National Conservatory.
In 1963, aged 13, Palma finished second in a musical contest in Majorca, Spain. At the same time, he continued his studies, first at the Camões Secondary School and after at the Colégio Infante de Sagres in Abrantes. The following year, 1964, marks a turning point in Palma’s musical preferences, in which he start leaving his classical influences and dedicates himself to pop-rock music.
1967–1972: Career beginnings and Sindicato
During the Summer of 1967, in Algarve, Palma joined the band Black Boys as a keyboard player. In the following Summer, in 1968, he joins the band Jets also as keyboard player. He also played with the bands Extravaganza and Beatnicks.
In 1969, Palma joined the rock band Sindicato, while studying Electrical Engineering in the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Lisbon. With Sindicato, he played in the first edition of the Vilar de Mouros Festival, in 1971. Sindicato released one single and a covers album, before disbanding in 1972. In that same year, Palma also dropped out of his university studies.
1972–1984: Start of solo career and travels
Jorge Palma’s solo career started in 1972 with the release of the single “The Nine Billion Names of God”, based on the short story of the same name by Arthur C. Clarke, with lyrics in English. After that, he spent some time improving his lyrical writing skills in Portuguese with the famous poet and song lyricist José Carlos Ary dos Santos, and in 1973 he launched his first single in Portuguese, “A Útlima Canção”.
To avoid conscription and the Portuguese Colonial War in Portugal’s overseas territories in Africa, Palma departed to Denmark with his wife Gisela Branco, where he lived between September 1973 and June 1974 as a political exile. Following the Carnation Revolution on 25 April 1974 in Lisbon, Palma returned to Portugal.
In February 1975, Palma participated in the 12th edition of the Festival da Canção with two songs: “O Pecado Capital” (with Fernando Girão) and “Viagem”. The songs finished in 7th and 8th places.
Palma’s first studio album, Com Uma Viagem na Palma da Mão, was recorded and released in 1975.
In 1977, he released his second album, ‘Té Já. This was followed by travels in Spain and Brazil, in which Palma played in the streets of several cities. He spent time afterwards in Paris, where he performed in several bars, cafés and the Paris Métro, playing songs from well-known artists such as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, and others.
Back to Portugal in 1979, Palma recorded and released his third album, Qualquer Coisa Pá Música. He would then spend two more years in France. Palma returned to Portugal in 1982 and released his fourth album, Acto Contínuo.
In 1984, Palma recorded his fifth album, Asas e Penas, his first since becoming a father the year before.
1985–1991: Commercial success
In 1985, Palma released one of the most acclaimed albums of his career, O Lado Errado da Noite. The album included the single “Deixa-me Rir”, which became a success in Portugal. Music critics called it “the right side of Jorge Palma” (a play on the album name, which translates to “The wrong side of the night”) and it won several prizes from the Portuguese press. The success of the album prompted a major tour in Portugal, including Madeira and Azores.
In 1986, Palma finished a 3-year General Course in Piano at the Conservatório Nacional de Lisboa, and enrolled in the Advanced Studies in Piano course in the same institution. He released his seventh album, Quarto Minguante, also that year.
Three years after, in 1989, Palma released his eighth album, Bairro do Amor. The album was critically acclaimed and includes some of his most well-known songs, such as “Frágil” and the title-song “Bairro do Amor”.
Palma finished his piano studies in 1990. After his final exam, he was proposed by To Zé Brito, who worked for Polygram at the time, to record an album of rearrangements of his songs with only piano and voice. Palma liked the idea and recorded some of most iconic songs played with a Steinway piano at the Valentim de Carvalho studios. The album was named Só and released in 1991. It was critically acclaimed and, in 2014, was considered one of the best Portuguese albums of all-time by music magazine Blitz.
1992–2001: Palma’s Gang and Rio Grande
After Só, Palma decided to go back to guitar-oriented rock and formed the band Palma’s Gang, with members of the bands Xutos & Pontapés and Rádio Macau. The band released a live album in 1993, titled Palma’s Gang: Ao Vivo no Johnny Guitar, which also explored Palma’s repertoire but this time with a hard-rock sound. During the following year, Palma performed in several stages across Portugal, solo or with Palma’s Gang.
In 1996, Palma accepted an invitation to join a new project, named Rio Grande, a band that included other famous Portuguese musicians, Tim (Xutos & Pontapés), João Gil (Ala dos Namorados), Rui Veloso and Vitorino. The first album of the band, released that same year, was inspired by Portuguese traditional music and became a major success. In 1997, Rio Grande released a live album recorded at the Coliseu dos Recreios in Lisbon, which included an unreleased song by Palma, “Quem És Tu De Novo”.
In 1998, Palma took part in several concerts at the Expo ’98 World Fair in Lisbon. He was also musical director of the play Aos Que Nasceram Depois de Nós.
Besides Palma’s Gang and Rio Grande, during the 1990s Palma’s musical activity also included collaborations with numerous Portuguese artists such as Censurados, Né Ladeiras, Xutos & Pontapés, Paulo Gonzo and Mafalda Veiga.
2001–present: Later years
After 10 years, Palma returned to solo releases with the album Jorge Palma, in 2001. The album was awarded the José Afonso Prize for best Portuguese album of 2001.
In 2002, Palma released his first solo live album, No Tempo dos Assassinos. His son Vicente participates in some of the performances. That year, he also joined the musical project Cabeças no Ar, which was basically a reunion of Rio Grande without Vitorino. They released one self-titled album.
In 2004, Palma released a new studio album, titled Norte.
In 2007, the album Voo Nocturno was released, supported by the single “Encosta-te a Mim”, which became a major success in Portugal. The following year, the live album Voo Nocturno ao vivo, recorded during the tour to promote the album, is released.
Palma’s last studio album to date, Com Todo o Respeito, was released in 2011.
During 2015 and 2016, Palma played shows together with Sérgio Godinho. The show at the Theatro Circo in Braga was released in the live album Juntos – Ao Vivo no Theatro Circo, in 2015.