Francisco Canaro was a prominent orchestra director, violinist and composer of the guardia vieja. He had a long and prolific career covering over 50 years of tango history from his early years with Vicente Greco up to the 1960’s. He recorded over 3500 tracks including 900 titles in the acoustic era only. As a composer he produced classics such as “Mano Brava”, “Sentimiento gaucho”, “La ultima copa”, “Sonar y nada mas”, “Madreselva”, “El chamuyo” and “Se dice de mi”.
Francisco Canarozzo was born in Uruguay in 1888 to a humble family of Italian immigrants. When he was 10 he began selling news papers in the streets to help sustain his family. His first violin was made out an oil can from a factory where he used to work.
With his oil can violin Francisco Canaro began performing in public for money. By 1908 he was a regular in the cafes of La Boca and he joined the orchestra of Vicente Greco with whom he made his first recording in 1911. He composed his first tango in 1912 and contributed to shaping the first orquestas tipicas by incorporating the double bass.
In 1925, Canaro was in Paris with his own orchestra. He also performed in New York and Japan. He was among the first to experiment with tango signers and to include an estribillista in his orchestra in 1924. Some of the signers most identified with him in his early years are Charlo and Ada Falcon, a woman with whom he had a notorious love affair.
Another important aspect of Canaro’s career was his involvement in the film industry as a composer, actor and producer. In 1934 he founded his own production company, Rio de la Plata, which produced 11 movies but without much success. He also fought for copyrights and founded the Argentine Society of Composers and Songwriters (SADAIC).
According to José Gobello, Canaro is the second most important figure of tango after Carlos Gardel. He published his memoirs in 1956 and died of Paget’s disease in 1964.