Category Archives: Biographies

Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel was a signer, guitarist, composer and actor of the early years of the guardia nueva. In the 1920’s he contributed to the renovation of tango by popularizing a new style of sentimental tango song known as tango canción. With his vision, personal charisma and quality of interpretation, Gardel became an international star and a pioneer of the sound recording and filming industry. His tragic death in a plane crash in 1935 turned him into a legend and he remains to this day the most famous and respected figure of tango history.

Charles Romuald Gardes was born in 1890 in Toulouse, France, of an unknown father. His mother Marie Berthe Gardes took him to Buenos Aires when he was still a young child. There she worked as a planchadora, ironing clothes for a living, and together they lived in poor pensions known as conventillos in the neighbourhood of San Nicolas.

Growing up near the heart of the city, Charles Gardes was attracted to the nightlife of his neighborhood. He got his first job as a claque, applauding the artists in the theaters on Avenida Corrientes. In the neighbourhood of Abasto he began signing in public with the help of his mentor, the payador José Betinotti.

In 1911, Gardes met José Razzano with whom he began performing as a duo at the Café de los Angelitos. In 1912 he got his first opportunity to record for Columbia under the name of Carlos Gardel.

The Gardel-Razzano duo began traveling to Uruguay and Brasil in 1915. This is where Gardel met the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso who had a profound influence on his signing technique. Two years later in Montevideo he met Pascual Contursi and recorded his first tango, “Mi noche triste“, opening the way to a new area of tango poetry and singing.

Before Mi noche triste Gardel’s repertoire was composed of folk songs, estilos, zambas, tonadas, waltz and other popular songs and rhythms of the world. By the time he began his solo career in 1925, he had become the voice of tango.

Besides his activities as a singer, Carlos Gardel wrote music for many tangos including two of his greatest hits, “Mano a mano” (with José Razzano) and “Mi Buenos Aires querido”. In the 1930’s he produced a series of short movies which are regarded as some of the first video-clips in history. He was the star of many movies including “Las luces de Buenos Aires”, “Melodia de arrabal”, “Cuesta abajo”, “Tango bar” and “El dia que me quieras”.

Carlos Gardel died in 1935 in a plane crash in Medellin, Columbia, while touring south America. According to the Internet Movie Database his voice and image appeared in over 80 movies after his death. [3] In Argentina it is said everyday he sings better.

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[1] Gobello, José. Mujeres y hombres que hicieron el tango. Librerias Libertador, 2002. Print.

[2] Cárcamo, Antonio José. Carlos Gardel discographía. Por siempre…. Gardel. Online. http://gardel.unsl.edu.ar/carcamo.htm

[3] Carlos Gardel filmography. IMDb, Online. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0306624/#composer

Francisco Canaro

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 beginning of tango concerts in the 1960’s. He recorded over 3500 tracks, including over 900 titles in the acoustic era [3]. As a composer he produced many classics including “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. By the age of 10 he began working in the streets of Buenos Aires selling news papers along with his brothers to help sustain the family. His first violin was made by himself out an oil can from a factory where he used to work. [1]

With his oil can violin Francisco Canaro began performing in public for money. By 1908 he was a regular in the cafes and nightclubs of La Boca. He joined the orchestra of his friend Vicente Greco and together they made their first recording in 1911. He composed his first tango “Pinta Brava” in 1912 and contributed to shape the first orquestas tipicas by incorporating the double bass.

By 1925 Canaro was in Paris with his own orchestra. He also went to New York and toured the interior of Argentina and Japan. He was first to include an estribillista in his orchestra in 1924. Some of the signers most identified with him in the early years are Charlo and Ada Falcon, a woman with whom he had a notorious love affair. [2]

Canaro contributed to many movies 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. His memoirs, published in 1956, are an important source on the history of tango.

Canaro died of Paget’s disease in 1964.

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[1] Canaro, Fransicso. Mis memorias: Mis bodas de oro con el tango. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1999. Print.

[2] Yo no se que me han hecho tus ojos. Dir. Lorena Muñoz and Sergio Wolf. 2003. Film.

[3] Lanner, Christoph. “Discografia de Francisco Canaro”. sites.google.com. Web. Aug 2016.