Born into a poor family in Maceió (capital of Alagoas, Northeastern Brazil), Djavan formed the group Luz, Som, Dimensão (LSD - "Light, Sound, Dimension"), playing Beatles' singles. In 1973, Djavan moved to Rio de Janeiro and started singing in local nightclubs. After competing in several festivals, he gained attention and recorded the album A Voz, o Violão e a Arte de Djavan in 1976. The album included the song "Flor de Lis," which became one of his most memorable hits. Albums that followed included his other musical influence, African music, and additional hits followed, such as "Açaí", "Sina," and "Samurai," which featured Stevie Wonder's harmonica. His best known compositions are: "Meu Bem Querer," "Oceano," "Se...," "Faltando um Pedaço," "Esquinas," and "Serrado".
Djavan's compositions have been recorded by Al Jarreau, Carmen McRae, The Manhattan Transfer, Loredana Bertè, Eliane Elias, Lee Ritenour; and in Brazil by Gal Costa, Dori Caymmi and Nana Caymmi (son and daughter of Dorival Caymmi), Lenine, João Bosco, Chico Buarque, Daniela Mercury, Ney Matogrosso, Dominguinhos, Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethânia, and other artists. The 1988, Epic Records single, "Stephen's Kingdom," featured a guest appearance from Stevie Wonder.
In 1998, Djavan contributed "Dukeles" to the AIDS benefit compilation album Onda Sonora: Red Hot + Lisbon produced by the Red Hot Organization.
In 1999, his live concert double-volume album, Ao Vivo, sold 1.2 million copies and the song, "Acelerou" became the Brazilian Song of the Year at the 2000 Latin Grammy Awards.