The particular example I have in mind is the song "Butterflies" from Okin's album "Songs From a Garden Shed." I was struck by the song's simple beauty (chord structure, melody, and gentle rhythm), and after listening to it a number of times I also became intrigued as to what inspired Earl to write the song, as the lyrics (which I do not usually pay a great deal of attention to) also struck a chord with me, so I wrote to him about it. Earl's reply is, in part, reproduced here below.
"'Butterflies' was, as usual with me, inspired by a chord. In this case, the D major 7th chord with which it begins. It seemed to lead to other interesting chords and that's what led to the song. When I'd completed the song, I needed a lyric. I had a friend called Roberto Corte-Real in Brazil, sadly now deceased, who once told me that the famous beach in Rio De Janeiro is artificial. Before the war, the beach was comparatively tiny. Mostly, there were petal-coloured little houses, each with their own sandy-soil garden, going right up to the edge of the sea and among the flowers and plants that grew in these gardens, butterflies could be seen. They are, of course, no longer there. Then, as you say, the metaphor occurred to me."
The story behind the lyrics is touching and is one that can be told many times over around the world as man continues to wreak havoc with the natural environment. In the context of this song, however, these subjects are merely peripheral. As touching as it is (metaphoric references notwithstanding), the merits of the song itself—the melody, chords, and rhythm—as an example of the classic bossa nova style are much more significant than its accompanying lyrics.
To be introduced to or reacquainted with the original bossa nova sound, the definitive album to buy would be Getz/Gilberto, featuring Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Recorded in 1963, the album is available on CD through Verve Music Group, catalogue number 0602498840221. I highly recommend this album.