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Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel was tango's first superstar and still one of its most enduring performers. Revered as an icon in Argentina ever since his tragic death in 1935, Gardel -- nicknamed "El Zorzal Criollo" ("The Creole Thrush") -- was the first singer to adopt the tango as a form of popular song. Previously, it had been entirely instrumental dance music, looked down upon by the cultural elite for its common origins and earthy sensuality. Gardel didn't change those qualities, but his advocacy certainly popularized the genre beyond all expectations. Thanks to extensive touring and a budding movie career, Gardel was able to become a star throughout Latin America and Western Europe; in fact, tango's international acceptance legitimized it in the eyes of Argentine skeptics. Blessed with an expressive, sobbing baritone, Gardel's flair for mournful heartbreak ballads helped establish an important part of tango's emotional language. Moreover, his charismatic personal style -- sharp clothes, urbane refinement, and a zest for the finer things in life -- made him a folk hero to countless fans with origins as humble as his own. His meteoric rise symbolically paralleled tango's path to legitimacy and international fame; in Gardel the common folk of Buenos Aires saw themselves and their culture validated on a massive scale. The plane crash that claimed his life at the height of his fame set off shock waves across the Spanish-speaking world, and even today, he is treated with near-religious reverence in Argentina; fans often say that he sings better every day. Gardel rivals Astor Piazzolla as the most important single figure in tango history; if Piazzolla was roughly tango's equivalent of Duke Ellington, then Gardel was certainly its Frank Sinatra -- a towering giant of a vocalist, macho yet sensitive, with an unequaled affinity for the popular song of his homeland.

Gardel was born Charles Romuald Gardés in Toulouse, France, on December 11, 1890. His mother, Berthe, was poor and unmarried, and his father never took any responsibility for the boy's upbringing. An alternate version of his story claims that he was born in Tacuarembó, Uruguay, but this likely originated from Gardel himself, who was always vague about his origins; a French birth certificate has been discovered, and Gardel seems to have falsified Uruguayan papers to avoid raising questions about his obligations to the French military when he re-entered that country on tour. In any case, Berthe Gardés emigrated to the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires in 1893. She and her son lived in cheap tenement housing, and as a youth, Carlos spent much of his time on the streets and in the nearby Mercado de Abasto marketplace. He dropped out of school in 1906 and started to concentrate on singing, with guidance from folksinger José Betinotti. He was soon performing professionally at cafés and restaurants around the area, and also found engagements at parties and political gatherings. In 1910, he became a regular at the O'Rondemann café, and around the same time he officially adopted the Spanish name Carlos Gardel. At this point, his repertoire consisted of folk songs and Creole milongas.

In 1911, Gardel first performed with fellow up-and-comer José Razzano, a talented Urugayan-born folksinger. The following year, Gardel made his first recordings for the Columbia label, and mounted a tour of the area in tandem with singer Francisco Martino, later adding Razzano to form a trio. When Martino left in late 1913, Gardel and Razzano carried on as a duet. They soon grew quite popular, playing most of the major theaters, clubs, and cabarets in Buenos Aires in 1914. They toured much of Argentina the following year, also extending their reach into Razzano's native Uruguay and Brazil; during the latter leg of the trip, Gardel met his idol, Italian opera singer Enrico Caruso, who offered him encouragement and validation. Gardel's promising career nearly came to an end on December 11, 1915, when he was shot in the chest at close range during an argument at a club. Fortunately, the bullet simply lodged in his lung, where it would remain for the rest of his life. He was able to make a full recovery, and was back on the road with Razzano in 1916.

In 1917, Gardel was approached in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo by songwriter Pascual Contursi, who had set lyrics to a tango by Samuel Castriota that had originally been known as "Lita." Now titled "Mi Noche Triste" ("My Sad Night"), the song told the tale of a pimp pining for his favorite whore; despite its melodramatic leanings, it was wittily laced with expressions drawn from contemporary Buenos Aires slang ("lunfardo"). Against the better judgment of most of his friends, Gardel decided to perform "Mi Noche Triste" in public, making it quite probably the first tango with lyrics that had ever been so officially sanctioned. Razzano distanced himself from the decision, leaving Gardel to sing the song alone on-stage. The audience went wild, and not long after, "Mi Noche Triste" became the first recorded vocal tango, selling briskly to an eager public. Gardel and Razzano toured Argentina and Uruguay extensively over the next five years, taking some time off in 1920 for Razzano to recover from throat surgery. Gardel recorded more tangos during this period, and they were so fervently embraced that he soon decided to concentrate on them exclusively. "Mi Noche Triste" had already opened the floodgates for an immense number of tango songs, which would continue over the '20s and '30s (later described as the music's golden age). He and the now-converted Razzano co-wrote their first tango song together in 1921, "Medallita de la Suerte."

Gardel and Razzano mounted their first European appearances over 1923-1924, performing to great acclaim in Madrid, Spain. Upon returning to Buenos Aires, they became regulars on Argentine radio, and Gardel also made orchestral recordings with bandleaders Francisco Canaro and Osvaldo Fresedo. Continuing throat problems forced Razzano to leave the act in 1925, and Gardel became a full-fledged solo artist. Over the next three years, he split time between Argentina and Spain, performing regularly and recording for the Odeon label in both Buenos Aires and Barcelona. He made his performing debut in Paris in September 1928 to tremendous acclaim, and also made some recordings for the French market, which sold rapidly. By the time Gardel made his triumphant return to Buenos Aires in mid-1929, tango had spread like wildfire through Western Europe, and the cream of Paris society had embraced him with great enthusiasm. Accordingly, he signed a lucrative new record deal with RCA, which ushered in what many fans consider his most productive period.

Inspired by Al Jolson's seminal The Jazz Singer, Gardel turned to film to broaden his audience even further, appearing in a series of shorts during 1930 that helped introduce new songs. He signed a deal with Paramount, which hoped to use him as its entryway into the Spanish-speaking market. Returning to France over 1930-1931, Gardel was a tremendous success once again; while there, he starred in his first full-length feature film, Luces de Buenos Aires, which proved to be a smash hit in Latin America and spawned the hit "Tomo y Obligo" ("I Drink and Make You Drink"). In spite of his massive popularity, Gardel's songs were often still peppered with Argentine idioms and slang expressions that didn't necessarily translate to the rest of the Spanish-speaking world. Accordingly, in 1932, Paramount teamed him with Alfredo LePera, an Argentine-born screenwriter and lyricist living in France. LePera was assigned to ensure that Gardel's material was as universally understandable as possible, and together the two wrote many of Gardel's best-loved and most popular hits. In 1932 alone, the pair completed work on two full-length films (Espérame and Melodia de Arrabal, the latter of which featured a hit title song) and one short (La Casa Es Seria).

Gardel returned to Argentina in 1933, recording and touring heavily in what would prove to be his final year at home. Toward the end of the year, he traveled to New York to make his American radio debut with NBC, and performed regularly for several months; although he attempted to sing in English, his skill in the language was limited, and the idea was later abandoned. Over 1934-1935, he completed four more films: Cuesta Abajo (which featured the title hit and "Mi Buenos Aires Querido"), El Tango en Broadway (another hit title song), Tango Bar, and perhaps his best-loved film of all, El Dia que Me Quieras. The latter featured yet another hit title song and the future Latin pop standard "Volver," among others, and also boasted a brief appearance by Astor Piazzolla, still a child and playing a street urchin. Despite Gardel's earlier problems with English, Paramount featured him in a small part of its revue-style film The Big Broadcast of 1936, hoping to break him to an even larger market (his bit was later cut from the American release).

Finishing his last film early in the year, Gardel decided to undertake a comprehensive tour of the Caribbean and northern South America. He never completed it. On June 24, 1935, Gardel, LePera, and other members of his entourage boarded a plane in Medellín, Colombia, en route to their next engagement in Cali. As the plane was attempting to get off the ground, it veered sharply and crashed into another plane stopped on the runway. Both planes burst into flames, and Gardel, LePera, and almost everyone else on board were killed. The news touched off an outpouring of grief across Latin America, and thousands jammed the streets of Buenos Aires for Gardel's funeral procession and burial. Not only had he been an ambassador of Argentine culture, he had also been one of Latin America's first true international superstars. His following hardly diminished in the years after his death, and he still remains the epitome of tango music for many. Countless compilations of his huge discography have surfaced on a variety of labels over the years. The 50th anniversary of his death was widely commemorated, and his classic "Por una Cabeza" was featured on the soundtracks of several American films during the early '90s. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Poesia Lunfarda - Reliquias

1. Mano A Mano

2. Yira Yira

3. Esta Noche Me Emborracho

4. Haragan

5. Tortazos

6. Farabute

7. Que Vachache

8. Mala Entrana

9. Compadron

10. Segui Mi Consejo

11. Al Mundo Le Falta Un Tornillo

13. Lloro Como Una Mujer

14. Chorra

16. Gloria

17. Por Seguidora Y Por Fiel

18. As De Carton

19. Naipe Marcado

x

Track List: Buenos Aires - Reliquias

1. Mi Buenos Aires Querido

2. Madreselva

3. Lejana Tierra Mia

4. Mi Noche Triste

5. Adios Muchachos

6. Milonga Sentimental

7. Guitarra Mia

8. La Cumparsita

9. Silencio

10. Buenos Aires

12. Cuando Tu No Estas

13. Volver

14. Caminito

15. Bandoneon Arrabalero

16. El Dia Que Me Quieras

x

Track List: Inigualable - Reliquias

1. Tarde Gris

2. Siga El Corso

3. Carnaval

6. De Flor En Flor

7. Corazon De Papel

8. Senda Florida

9. La Novia Ausente

10. Marioneta

11. La Mariposa

12. Farolito De Papel

13. Te Aconsejo Que Me Olvides

14. Solo Se Quiere Una Vez

15. Cobardia

16. Traicionera

17. Cartas Viejas

18. Quimera

19. Prisionero

20. La Ultima Copa

x

Track List: Poesia Lunfarda - Vol.2 - Reliquias

1. Lloro Como Una Mujer

2. Tengo Miedo

3. Viejo Smoking

5. Fierro Chifle

6. Canchero

7. Patadura

8. Muneca Brava

9. Uno Y Uno

10. Entra Nomas

11. Pan Comido

12. Todavia Hay Otarios

13. Machete

14. Por Que Soy Reo

15. Patotero Sentimental

16. No Te Quiero Mas

17. La Mina Del Ford

18. El Bulin De La Calle Ayacucho

20. Soy Una Fiera

x

Track List: Confesion

1. Confesion

2. La Cabcion De Buenos Aires

3. Adios Muchachos

4. La Cumparista

5. Noche De Reyes

6. Mano A Mano

7. Arrabal Amargo

8. Soledad

9. Recuerdo Malevo

10. Milonga Sentimental

11. A La Luz Del Candil

12. Chorra

13. Caminito

14. Yira, Yira

15. Silencio

16. Barrio Reo

17. Lo Han Visto Con Otra

18. Un Tropezon

x

Track List: The Best Of Carlos Gardel

1. Mi Buenos Aires Querido

2. Melodia De Arrabal

3. Leguisamo Solo

4. Tomo Y Obligo

5. Silencio

6. Golondrinas

7. Por Una Cabeza

8. Sus Ojos Se Cerraron

9. Volver

10. Rubias De Nueva York

11. El Dia Que Me Quieras

12. Cuesta Abajo

13. Madreselva

14. Armargura

15. Estudiante

16. Soy Una Fiera

17. Buenos Aires

18. Arrabal Amargo

19. Volvio Una Noche

20. Lejana Tierra Mia

x

Track List: Adios Muchachos

1. Adios Muchachos

2. La Cumparsita

3. Caminito

4. Volver

5. Esta Noche Me Emboracho

6. Soledad

7. Un Tropezon

8. Je Te Dirai

9. La Ultima Copa

10. Mano A Mano

11. Mi Buenos Aires Querido

12. Noche De Reyes

13. Silencio

14. Ventarron

15. Arrabal Amargo

16. Confession

17. La Cieguita

18. Madreselva

x

Track List: 100 Años

1. La Cumparsita

2. Cuesta Abajo

3. Anclao En Paris

4. El Dia Que Me Quieras

5. Melodia De Arrabal

6. Palomita Blanca

7. Senda Florida

8. Silencio

9. Mi Buenos Aires Querido

10. Aquel Tapado De Armino

11. Rosas De Otono

12. Volvio Una Noche

13. Esta Noche Me Enborracho

14. Yira Yira

15. Callejera

16. Volver

x

Track List: Carlos Gardel - Best Recordings

1. Mi Buenos Aires Querido

2. Madreselva

3. Melodia De Arrabal

4. Recuerdo Malevo

5. La Cumparsita

6. Anclao En Paris

7. Rubias De Nueva York

8. Por Una Cabeza

9. Milonguera

10. El Dia Que Me Quieras

11. Compadron

12. Bandoneon Arrabalero

13. Yira Yira

14. Taconeando

15. Mala Entrana

16. La Cancion De Buenos Aires

17. Caminito Soleado

18. Bulincito De Mi Vida

19. Desden

20. Se Llama Mujer

21. Matala

22. Volve, Mi Negra

23. Buey Manso

24. Queja Indiana

x

Track List: El Cantor, El Autor

1. Mano A Mano

2. Golondrinas

3. Mi Buenos Aires Querido

4. Volver

5. Por Una Cabeza

6. Volvio Una Noche

7. Cuando Tu No Estas

8. Soledad

9. Cuesta Abajo

10. Leguisamo Solo

11. Melodia De Arrabal

12. Lejana Tierra Mia

13. Arrabal Amargo

14. Me Da Pena Confesarlo

15. Amores De Estudiante

16. Amargura

17. Tomo Y Obligo

18. Rubias De New York

19. Desden

20. El Dia Que Me Quieras

Comments

Report as inappropriate
His music & charisma still strong as ever. Those that have his music & movie clips upload to youtube to share this gift world-wide.
Report as inappropriate
Tacuarembo,U r u g u a y
Report as inappropriate
ingridmschul z
good article, but really, carlitos and frank sinatra? no comparison.
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maria.lopez. 1 7 3 7
Hermosa musica
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maria.lopez. 1 7 3 7
Beautiful unforgettabl e music
Report as inappropriate
Es excellente!
Report as inappropriate
Carlos Gardel con sus canciones nos hace sentir AMOR
Report as inappropriate
grroooso!! Gardel
Report as inappropriate
Lo más grande que a dado Argentina en el tango. No me canso de oirlo.
Report as inappropriate
me en canta oir al inividable don Carlos Gardel.....
Report as inappropriate
Escuchar a Carlos Gardel, es oir musica celestial.
Cualquier cosa que se diga de El,es agrandar su figura.
Zenit Ram
Report as inappropriate
GARDEL FUE,ES Y SERA EL CANTOR DE TANGO MAS GRANDE EN LA HISTORIA,ES MUNDIAL.-CHA U . - L U I S . - T I T O . -
Report as inappropriate
Che Bianchi....U r u g u a y o que sea Gardel? en tus suenos...Fra n c e s nacio y Argentino murio. Tenia el corazon y alma de Argentino 100 porciento... . p d nunca canto algo sobre SU querida Uruguay...ha c i que te dice eso??? y otra cosa , con todo respeto a mis primos Uruguayos, no digan que le robamos algo....no, Gardel fue Argentino. punto y aparte....
Report as inappropriate
La copa del olvido is by Hugo del Carril
Report as inappropriate
gracias por esta biografia que nos demuestra el carino que guardamos por GARDEL
Report as inappropriate
Es el GIGANTE!
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Nadie canta como El Zorzal Criollo
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Grande Gardel ������
Report as inappropriate
Único el más grandw
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climaticomus t o
uruguayo orgulloso como todo el resto de nosotros!
Report as inappropriate
GREAT JOB! THANK YOU
Report as inappropriate
Otra cosa mas que nos roban los argentinos.. . . . l i b e r e n el ADN che.. asi se termina esto de una vez.
Report as inappropriate
tere_60
No importa donde haya nacido Gardel. Es un orgullo para todos, sin importar nacionalidad .
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climaticomus t o
necesitan hacerle un upgrade a esto
Report as inappropriate
love this singer the best in tango lyrics
Report as inappropriate
rosalbasaenz
quisiera escuchar mas de su albun en Agustin Lara radio
es una alegria escuchar a Gardel era el favorito de mi madre.
Report as inappropriate
La cumparsita si es autoria de un Uruguayo, Pero no Gardel.
Report as inappropriate
Manya27 . En realidad no a que se refieren los tan humildes uruguayos, al querer aduenarse de la nacionalidad de Gardel. GARDEL ES ,FUE, Y SERA FRANCES. Con corazon y alma Argentina. No conozco cancion alguna ,de Gardel dedicada al Uruguay . Y de una vez por todas Uruguayos no insulten la memoria de GARDEL. De cpmtimiar asi ,intentaran aduenarse asta el obelisco de Bs. As.
Report as inappropriate
Tan Uruguayo como La cumparsita, Gardel un genio. Sin palabras !
Report as inappropriate
mr0point
Al oir a Gardel, veo a mi viejo disfrutar sus canciones..
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¡Magnífico!
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lo mas bonito y amoroso, que buena musica para siempre..!
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luislandau
Pretty good
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pablosauto
Gardel...aye r , hoy y siempre !
Report as inappropriate
One word to describe him INOLVIDABLE!
Report as inappropriate
ruffanluis
gardel never dies,is a legend in generations to come!
Report as inappropriate
pdrvasquez
Veinte an~os no es nada...
Tampoco dos veces veinte!
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Argentinian Classic
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emilmathov
CARLOS GARDEL IS TANGO!!!
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mancitasims_ l
carlos gardel is the bomb!!!! for us tango and ballad lovers
Report as inappropriate
douglasquint e r o 2
bravo congratulati o n padora you are supadupa
Report as inappropriate
Zorzal no sabes cuanto añoro el dia de pisar tu ARGENTINA, estrella que desde cielo nos alumbra guia mis paso ,para que algun dia pose mis pies y alma sobre ella. ESTOY SEGURO QUE EN TRAVIDA ESA TIERRA TUYA FUE TAMBIEN LA MIA, gracias por tu legado, mas de 1/2 siglo an pasado y todavia se recuerda, nadie como tu MAESTRO..CHA O O O . ATT. sri.ceasarit p r @ y a h o o . c o m

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