Having worked as a composer and also as the consultant on Northeastern language on the awarded film O Cangaceiro (by Lima Barreto, 1953, winner of the Great Prize at the Cannes Festival as the best film), Zé do Norte became internationally famous for his song "Mulher Rendeira" (an adaptation of a theme attributed to Virgulino Ferreira, the Lampião himself). He also wrote the classic "Sodade Meu Bem, Sodade" (included on the same soundtrack, recorded by Vanja Orico), re-recorded by several interpreters including Nana Caymmi and Maria Bethânia.
Having had a poor and suffering childhood as a cotton picker, do Norte was always interested in music, walking miles to watch the cantadores (minstrels). His later hit "Sodade, Meu Bem, Sodade" was written when he was 11. In 1928, he moved to Rio de Janeiro and joined the army. In 1938, performing at a fair in Rio de Janeiro, he was noticed by Joraci Camargo and Rubens de Assis, who invited him to perform with the famous artists Sílvio Caldas and Orlando Silva to an audience of 20,000 people. In 1939, he was invited to join Rádio Tupi and it was then that he adopted his stage name. In 1950, after he worked at several radio stations, do Norte recorded the originals "Vamos Rodar" and "Prazer do Boiadeiro," when he was invited by Lima Barreto to work on his film O Cangaceiro. Included on the film were "Mulher Rendeira," "Sodade, Meu Bem, Sodade," "Meu Pião," and "Lua Bonita" and do Norte had all these songs recorded internationally. In 1955, Inesita Barroso recorded his adaptation of the folklore "Mineiro Tá Me Chamando," and, four years later, Luís Vieira recorded the baião "Milho Verde." Raul Seixas also re-recorded "Lua Bonita." ~ Alvaro Neder, Rovi