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Chris Thile says he was only a year old when he first heard "The Girl from Ipanema." (Danny Clinch)

Chris Thile's First Musical Memory

by NPR Staff
Jun 27, 2012 (All Things Considered)

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It's clear Chris Thile has an ear for music: The 31-year-old mandolinist, best known for his bands Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers, has been playing music his entire life. But Thile also has a sharp musical memory: He says he was only a year old when he first heard "The Girl from Ipanema," with Stan Getz on saxophone, vocals from Astrud Gilberto and guitar from Joao Gilberto.

"It's my earliest musical memory," Thile tells All Things Considered host Melissa Block. "I remember the house on Nevada Street in Oceanside, Calif., is where that was happening, and I can remember sitting on the floor in a diaper listening to this song and feeling like it was being played fairly consistently."

Thile says that there's another reason he can put such an early date on the memory.

"I know it was early, because I could understand the Portuguese that Joao sings just as well as the English that Astrud sings," he says. "It wasn't that it was all gibberish — it was that I felt like I was catching the meaning from both."

Thile says he imagined his parents as the song's vocalists.

"In my mind, it was my dad singing and then my mom," he says. "I just remember it being incredibly comforting to me."

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