Son of the record producer João Araújo and the amateur singer Maria Lúcia Araújo, Cazuza always had close contact with music. Influenced since early childhood by the strong values of Brazilian music, he had a special preference for the sad, dramatic overtones of Cartola, Lupicinio Rodrigues, Dolores Durán, and Maysa. He began to write lyrics and poems around 1965. In late 1974, a vacation in London, England, acquainted him with the music of Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin and The Rolling Stones, and he soon became a great fan. Cazuza enrolled in college in 1978, but abandoned the course of journalism three weeks later to work with his father at Som Livre. He moved later to San Francisco, where he came in contact with Beat literature, becoming highly influenced by it.
In 1980 he returned to Rio, where he worked with the theatrical group Asdrúbal Trouxe o Trombone (Asdrúbal Brought the Trombone). There he was noticed by the novice singer/composer Léo Jaime, who introduced him to a beginning rock band that needed a vocalist, the Barão Vermelho. With this very successful eighties Brazilian rock band, who had their greatest success with "Bete Balanço", a song that was part of the soundtrack of a film, Cazuza began his career as a singer. In 1985, Cazuza took part in Rock in Rio with Barão Vermelho (Red Baron), and around this time, Caetano Veloso claimed he was the greatest Brazilian poet of his generation. It was also in this same year that Cazuza was infected with the AIDS virus, precipitating his desire to leave the band in order to obtain a greater freedom in composition and expression, both musically and lyrically.
After he left the band, Cazuza's music began to diversify, incorporating elements of the blues in songs such as "Blues da Piedade" (Blues of Compassion), "Só as mães são felizes" (Only Mothers Are Happy) and "Balada da Esplanada" (Ballad of the Esplanade), which was based on a poem of the same name by Oswald de Andrade; showcasing increasingly intimate lyrics, like those in "Só se for a Dois" (Only If It Will Be as a Couple), as well as opening itself up to influences from Brazilian pop music with interpretations of Cartola's "O Mundo é um Moinho" (The World is a Windmill), Raul Seixas's "Cavalos Calados" (Silent Horses) and Caetano Veloso's "Esse Cara" (This Guy).
Contrary to what usually happens once an artist leaves a band that has made them famous, Cazuza's solo career proved to be more successful than that of his former group. "Exagerado" (Exaggerated), "O Tempo não Pára" (Time Doesn't Stop), and "Ideologia" (Ideology) were his greatest hits and proved to be a great influence on subsequent Brazilian musicians.
In 1996, Cazuza was featured in the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Rio produced by the Red Hot Organization, performing the song "Preciso Dizer que Te Amo" in a duet with Bebel Gilberto.
In 1989, he admitted publicly for the first time that he had AIDS and released his last album in life: Burguesia. Cazuza was openly bisexual but was not active in the LGBT movement. However, his openness about being a person with AIDS helped to change public perceptions and attitudes about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
Cazuza died in Rio de Janeiro on July 7, 1990 at the age of 32. He was buried at the Cemitério São João Batista Botafogo, in Rio de Janeiro. Cazuza's mother set up the Viva Cazuza Society (Sociedade Viva Cazuza), a charity which sponsors AIDS prevention and provides a home for HIV-positive children
A biopic starring Daniel de Oliveira and directed by Sandra Werneck called Cazuza: O Tempo não Para ("Cazuza: Time Doesn't Stop") was released in 2004.
In 2014, the biographic musical Cazuza - Pro Dia Nascer Feliz opened in São Paulo. It featured songs from Cazuza's solo career as well as from his time as frontman of Barão Vermelho. The musical was directed by João Fonseca and toured Brazil for two years.1982: Barão Vermelho 120,000 - Gold1983: Barão Vermelho 2 180,000 - Gold1984: Bete Balanço (Original Soundtrack)1984: Maior Abandonado 800,000 - Platinum1992: Barão Vermelho Ao Vivo1985: Exagerado 750,000 - Platinum 2x1987: Só se for a dois 600,000 - Platinum1988: Ideologia 2,000,000 - Diamond1988: O tempo não pára 1,800,000 - Diamond1989: Burguesia 850,000 - Platinum 2x1991: Por aí 600,000 - Platinum2005: O Poeta Está Vivo - Ao Vivo no Teatro Ipanema 1987 250,000 - PlatinumBete Balanço, 1984Um Trem para as Estrelas, 1988Cazuza - O Tempo Não Pára, 2004 (biopic)