(Photo by Sebastian-Dario)
Carlos Gardel is a controversial Argentine icon. For starters, he wasn’t born in Argentina; according to the official version he was born on the 11th of December of 1890 in Toulouse, France but many dispute he was an illegitimate child born in Uruguay. At the age of three he moved with his mother from France to Buenos Aires. They settled in the neighborhood of Abasto but it wasn´t until later on in his life that he was nationalized as an Argentine.
His music career began early on after dropping out of high school. He already had a great singing voice and was baptized “El Zorzal Criollo” (The Criollo Thrush) by one of his first musical influences, José Betinotti with whom he sang duets, who encouraged him to start singing popular songs at the neighborhood cafes and bars. Together they recorded their first album and began touring, acquiring increasing popularity. Gardel then went on to star in the silent film “Flor de Durazno” which brought him even more attention and it was during this period that he began to sing tangos renewing the genres identity. In 1918 he recorded Flor de Fango and in 1919 De Vuelta al Bulín, progressively building his career.
In 1923 he formed the duet Gardel-Razzano until the later began having trouble with his voice and became Gardel’s manager. Once more as a solo singer his fame skyrocketed as he became increasingly popular in Spain and France.
The talented singer and songwriter began to interact with the silver screen once again on the production of 15 short films, and on one of his trips to France he formed a friendship with non other than Charles Chaplin who opened new doors to him. In 1931 he signed a contract with Paramount pictures to record Luces de Buenos Aires which was musicalized by several tango composers of the time. The film became a hit with the Spanish public and it is said that movie theatres were often asked to pause and rewind the film to play the part where Gardel sang over and over.
His cinematographic and musical career continued to expand and he moved to New York where he participated in many productions until he died in a plane crash in Medellin, Colombia, in 1935.
The talented “Zorzal Criollo” has since become the most remembered tango legend the Buenos Aires streets have seen.
More on Carlos Gardel can be seen in his Abasto house which is now a museum that not only shows exhibits on Gardel and other influential tango composers and singers, but also stages live music and screenings of tango films. Jean Jaurés 735, Abasto. 4964-2015.