João Barone and his Jeep

​A Jeep (and a World War) as the link between father and son

How João Barone, drummer of the band Paralamas, transformed his passion for the Second War into a tribute to his combatant father

July 31, 2019 - Despite being one of the most popular characters among Brazilian Jeep Lovers, João Alberto Barone Reis e Silva is not the type to spend hours discussing his beloved car’s 4x4 maneuvers or details of engines and traction. On the other hand, he doesn’t mind spending nights researching for places to find genuine parts to restore a WWII Jeep Willys, or crisscrossing the web for information about Brazilian fighters who "dropped their guitars for rifles".

In fact, João Barone was already famous as the Brazilian drummer and virtuoso for the rock band Paralamas. But it was the story of his father, Joao Lavor Reis e Silva, a soldier fighting in the war, which ignited the spark that made him delve into the period, buy and restore two period Jeeps, exactly like the one his father drove when fighting as a soldier for the Brazilian Expeditionary Force.

The vehicle’s role in combat was one of the reasons that made the Jeep an icon in the history of World War II – and for automobiles. "The Jeep represented mobility and freedom for the troops to go wherever they wanted, regardless of the terrain", says Barone, pointing to a trajectory that continues today, with 4x4 Utility Vehicles and SUVs occupying the top of the wish list as preferred vehicle.

One such model he saw closely in Sao Paulo during Jeep Day 2019, was the new generation of Jeep Wrangler (photo). But despite driving one through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, where he lives, his real passion are the MB models used in combat. "Driving such a Jeep is like stepping into a time capsule", sums up the musician.

"My interest in the Second World War arose because of my father who was a fighter and saw it as a 'fair war': people wanted to overturn that awful thing about Nazism, oppression, racism and segregation. There was an almost romantic aspect of 'good versus evil' in the fight. I think the war was a justified because of that. My interest is precisely the symbolism of the Second War and not the warlike aspect itself", he explains.

Barone says that his father spoke very little about the war. One of the few stories he told, according to the musician, was about the day he brought ammunition to the Allied soldiers and had to run off with the Jeep, driving under enemy fire. "That stayed in my mind and when I had the opportunity, I decided I would buy a Jeep just like that one and restore it."

It was late 1990s. At the time, the Paralamas were already the most international of all the Brazilian bands of their generation, having crossed the country’s borders several times. Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and Mexico were a regular part of the group's tours. "In 1986, we were invited to participate in a rock festival in Buenos Aires and we came across the latest sounds in Latin rock", recalls Barone. "We were smitten".

In all modesty, he believes that Paralamas opened a two-way street between Brazilian and Latin rock. Along this road were Fito Paez and Soda Stereo, and the Mexicans from Cafe Tacuba. "One of the biggest audiences we had was in Venezuela, in an area that used to be an airport, right in the middle of Caracas, with 150,000 people."

Another unforgettable night, Barone recalls, was in Buenos Aires where the group opened for Keith Richards who was on tour for his solo career. "The stadium had more than 50,000 people and I'll tell you, it was bad for Keith to play after Paralamas because our show was a hecatomb!" he says, laughing.

With this same lightness Barone describes how, in 2001 in Rio de Janeiro, he helped found a club of old military vehicles. The idea came from the contact he had with similar clubs in the United States and Europe while searching for original parts to restore the 1944 Jeep he had acquired.

"Just before my father passed away in 2000, I showed him the Jeep, but he was unable to walk and had a hard time getting around so we couldn’t enjoy a ride together. Nevertheless he appreciated it a lot and thought it was great that I had gotten a Jeep from that era. It was an incredible moment, very touching. There were still no selfies at the time, but I still keep this scene in my memory in a very special way."

Parallel Careers

Barone's passion for World War II is almost a parallel career for the musician. In addition to helping with the founding of the Antique Military Vehicles Club of Rio de Janeiro (CVMARJ), Barone produced two documentaries on the Second World War and wrote the book 1942: Brazil and its Almost Unknown War. All three projects came from "rescue" trips. In 2004, he sent his 1944 Jeep to Paris and from there he went to Normandy to participate in the commemoration for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. From this trip the documentary A Brazilian on D-Day was born, which tells the story of the Franco-Brazilian Pierre Closterman, a descendant of French born in Curitiba (Paraná) in 1921, and the only Brazilian to have participated in D-Day as a member of the French aviation.

In 2009 and with the Jeep as protagonist once again, he left for Italy and drove through the same places that his father had been in along with other Brazilian soldiers. "Brazilians are remembered to this day with great affection by the Italians for the way they acted during the war. It was a very exciting trip", he says. And from that trip the documentary The Way of the Heroes was born, which retraces the steps and the fight of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (FEB) in Italy during World War II.

In 2014, Barone returned to Normandy, this time to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day and in 2015, it was time to return to Italy to participate in the celebrations of the 70 years of the end of the war. In these two trips the Jeep stayed in the garage, but he acknowledges that it was thanks to it that his stories emerged.

Words: Patricia Büll

Pictures: Video frame, Barone (personal archive), Marcos Hermes

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