Archive for the ‘ Poet ’ Category

1907, November 1 – BIRTH OF HOMERO MANZI

He stared at the emaciated, pale, figure in the mirror…he touched his face, chuckled and said, “and to think Barbeta, that you will soon die”…like Alice in Wonderland, Homero Manzi thought “stepping through the mirror to another world”…later battling the advanced stages of cancer, his blood curdling, harrowing scream of pain would be abated by yet another injection of morphine often administered by his son Acho and he would continue writing…it was in this state that he wrote his beloved “Discepolin” for his dear friend Enrique Santos Discepolo who himself lay dieing…both men would die within months of each other; Manzi 44, Discepolo 50…oddly “Discepolin” is a poem about a man about to die, by a man about to die…on his hospital bed he would received calls from friends requesting a quick poem or a lyric and he would reach for his pen and pad and begin writing…it was thus that he wrote “Canto de Un Payador por Eva Peron”…Eva Peron was a woman he greatly admired and who herself would also lose  a battle with cancer within months of Manzi (Scorpio)…Homero Manzi’s writing were true literature whose magic lay not only in the substance but in the style as well…arqueably he was the only tango lyricist who had this quality…this would be displayed time and again in his work (over 70 tangos) most notably in his immortal “Malena”…his “Fuimos”…his “Sur”…his waltz “Paisaje” to name just a few….


Collaborating with Sabastian Piana he revived the milonga in 14 compositions in this genre starting with “Milonga Sentimental” which they wrote for Rosita Quiroga…already as a child he demonstrated a love of writing…at age 14 he wrote his first tango to be recorded “Porque No Me Besas”…early on he also demonstrated a deep social conscious and a desire for social justice…he joined the Union Civica Radical which had been founded by the charismatic Ipolito Yrigoyen who became his mentor and almost like a father figure to him…Manzi would pay dearly for this starting with beatings from opposition thugs and later imprisonment and the losing of his teaching post at the University…he wrote the screenplays for over 20 films; the first film which he both wrote and directed was “Pobre Mi Madre Querida” which premiered in 1948…another one, ”El Ultimo Payador” was about a singer who is dieing written months before he succumbed…he once said, “I write only about the things I have lived”…above all he was an ardent nationalist and loved his people; he once criticized Carlos Gardel for allowing the Americans to produce his films…he was also a lover of women, the nights, and horse racing to which he squandered much money…he apparently had an affair with the legendary Nelly Omar…in his “El Ultima Organito” (the funeral cart) he says, “fair maidens will open their shutters at the passing of his cart and it will eventually disappear into the distance and the people will be without a voice”




Juan Carlos De La Madrid was Terry Malloy…in one of film history’s most famous scenes from the 1954 Academy Award winner “On The Waterfront”, Terry (Marlon Brando) says, “I could have had class, I could have been a contender, I could have been somebody”….in similar disarmingly frank, self-deprecating  language La Madrid would say about himself, “In my life, I have done all of the bad things you can imagine and in the end I am no one”…like Malloy, Juan Carlos was a boxer, a sparing partner for 3 pesos a round and a meal when he was lucky; when he wasn’t boxing he dabbled at dancing and singing tango…ten years later the celebrated Hector Maure would have a similar fate…Maure’s dreams of boxing glory were cruelly ended one evening when a left from no where sent him to the canvass for the 10 count and an injury that ended his career; he became a tango singer… La Madrid was part of Buenos Aires’ underbelly…he was a constant presence in the city’s cheap barrooms, its smoke-filled gambling dens where desperate, unshaved men crouched over roulette tables only to disappear just a few minutes later into oblivion…”Juanito” was liked by its assorted actors, the hoods, its loan sharks, the pimps, its fools and its street poets with whom he generously shared his spare change…he was proud of his ability to hold his whiskey…


It was very much of a macho world and Juanito, a keen observer, wrote about it, “mine are men’s poems, from a man’s world”…he wrote in lunfardo, “the language of the people of the streets” he would say…his tango lyrics were real…the legendary Astor Piazzolla called him to write the lyrics for his “Fugitiva” which he recorded to great acclaim with the voice of Maria De La Fuente in 1952…Juan Carlos De La Madrid (Scorpio), was born in the neighborhood of Flores in Buenos Aires to a poor family…he had little formal education but he was curious and he loved to read….already as a child, he demonstrated the intensity and passion which would later characterize him as an adult…the roar of the sea was his palliative….to survive he tried many things including having been a journalist, a literature teacher, a book salesman, a radio and television program organizer and even a Shakespearean actor…at the certain point he began to lose his eyes sight and became immensely depressed…contemplating suicide, he recalled one of his favorite lines from Hamlet: “o, that this too solid  flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itslef into dew…how weary stale flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world”…but his indomitable spirit jolted him to continue on, “I realized that I loved living like an actor who must go on with his assigned role until the curtain comes down”….his two books of poems, “Hombre Sumado” (The Sum of Man) and “Pequena Rosa Lunfarda” are still traded among collectors



 The lyrics of  “La Abandonè Y No Sabia” are in effect a tango within a tango; a story within a story…a man narrates the lyrics of a tango which describe the pain of the love he lost and his hope to see her again someday…both the music and the lyrics were written by Jose Canet….Jose had fallen in love with the guitar at age 12 when he heard Ignacio Corsini sing on the radio…Piero Hugo Fontana, his friend and fishing partner, would grow up to become the renown singer Hugo Del Carril…Jose Canet  grew up in the neighborhood of La Paternal, Buenos Aires…at the age of 18 he had his first professional gig when he was asked to join the group that backed up singer Santiago Devin…he was then recruited for the Radio Stentor staff to back up Fernando Diaz and Dorita Davis…one evening, after a radio performance he happened to meet singer Alberto Gomez with whom he would tour throughout South America…it is on one of those tours that he composed his most famous tango “La Abandonè y No Sabia” in 1943 in Santigo Chile


The legendary Troilo said of Oscar Alonso, “after Gardel, he was the best tango singer; of this there is no doubt”…born in the country side, his father was a herdsman who, interestingly was cited by name by Ricardo Guiraldes in his novel  ”Don Segundo Sombra”…when Oscar was 14 the father moved the family to Buenos Aires…two years later he had his first singing job at a  busy cafe where, a customer would recall years later, his first tango had been “La Ultima Copa”…In 1929, through a loyal customer, he got his first break when he was invited to sing at radio station “La Voz del Aire”…doors opened for him including a stint at the legendary Cafe Nacional where it is said that Gardel performing at a theater next door, upon hearing him sing, predicted a good future for the young man…his career however was to be uneven, there were periods when he would disappear; perhaps it was the ready glass of whiskey in hand…on a long tour of Latin America, he discovered aspecial love for Cuba about which, in his waining years, he loved to tell tales.



Psychologist tell us that successful people share certain traits in common, enthusiasm, focus and the ability to overcome setbacks…Donato Racciatti (Libra) was blessed with these qualities and unlike so many of his contemporaries, when he finally passed away at the age of 81, he was content and serene, beloved by his fans and the people of Montevideo…for every successful orchestra like those of D’arienzo, Fresedo, Troilo, hundreds tried and failed in a highly competitive and fickle field…born in the Aires Puros neighborhood of Montevideo, early on he demonstrated precocious musical ability and although pressured by his parents to pursue a more secure career, he was determined to make music his life’s vocation…he pursued his studies in bandoneon with unusual passion…a key point in his career occurred at the age of 22 when he was recruited by the Laurenz Casella Orchestra…soon after that he found himself leading the orchestra of singer Luis Alberto Fleitas…at the age of 30 he put together his own orchestra to which he devoted himself with unbridled passion…


He hired a young bandoneonist named Raul Jaurena who would in time become one of the most successful exports to New York City where he would have a renown and stellar career…his first recording was “Conocen Estos Compasses” (Do you Know These rhythms) composed by Horacio Marquez…on the other side was the candombe “El Pregon Del Negrito” which he personally composed…he was to become immensely popular first on local radio stations and later in Buenos Aires’s mythical Radio Belgrano and Radio El Mundo…like his fellow countryman Francisco Canaro, he began external forays with tours in Brazil…his most prolific period was between 1953 and 1960 with notable vocalists like Nina Miranda, Luis Correa, Nestor Real and Carlos Roldan…as a composer some of his best work was done in collaboration with lyricist Federico Silva…some of his best known compositions include “Vencida”, “Sin Estrellas” and the immortal “Hasta Siempre Amore” which was a major hit for Carlos Di Sarli with the voice of Horacio Casares


  • CLICK HERE –  to hear one of Donato Racciatti’s greatest hits “Hasta Siempre Amore”  played by the Juan D’arienzo orchestra….lyrics by Federico Silva


The clown as a tragic hero  goes back to Aristophanes in ancient Greece…in modern times the clown has been used by many writers most notably Shakespeare but perhaps the best know clown is “Canio”  from Ruggero Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” who laughs on the outside but crys on the inside when he sings the immortal “Vesti La Giubba”….this was precisely the theme of “Amore De Payaso” whose lyrics and music were composed by Antonio Sureda…The lyrics speak of a clown who laughs as he performs but when he returns to his dressing room he crys desperately for the woman who left him…the next day he is found dead near a letter and the picture of his beloved…Antonio Sureda who died young (age 47) under mysterious circumstances, was a prolific composer of beloved tangos like “Valsecita De Antes” with lyrics by Homero Manzi which was a major hit for Juan D’arienzo and “Botellero” recorded by Libertad Lamarque in 1926…Enrique Santos Discepolo resorted to the clown metaphor in his classic “Soy Un Arlequin” which was a hit for Alberto Gomez in 1929


This was another successful record for singer Roberto Ruffino…with his major hit “Alma Mia” at the age of 18 he had begun earning sums of money he had never dreamed of…born in the mythical neighborhood of El Abasto, Buenos Aires, he began singing in the Cafe O’Rondeman, the same one that launched Carlos Gardel…his major break came in 1938 when Carlos Garay, the agent for Carlos Di Sarli, happened to hear Ruffino singing and recommended him to Di Sarli..his first recording with Di Sarli, “Corazon” with lyrics by Hector Marcò was a major success…In 1944 he launched a solo career debuting on Radio Belgrano where he was backed by his own orchestra directed by the respected Atilo Bruni…he had brief stints with the  FranciniPontier, Miguel Calo and Anibal Troilo orchestras…he was also an accomplished composer and lyricist of popular tangos like Sonemos which was recorded by Hugo Duval with the Rodolfo Biagi orchestra and “El Bazar de Los Jugetes” which was recorded by Alberto Podestà with the Miguel Calò orchestra.


1893, October 13 – BIRTH OF “TANIA”

By her own admission, Tania was superior and condescending toward the portenos when she came to Buenos Aires in 1927…she was an important Spanish singer and dancer and all the portenos, in contrast to their posturing and bravado, could speak about was how to find the money to put on a simple play…she finally lent them the money…but there was one man who was different; shy, timid, self-effacing the legendary Enrique Santos Discepolo would win her heart…”Chachi”, she would call him…but the worldly Tania had to be patient; there was a bit of protocol…there were the invitations to his house with the chaperones…the invites to tea with friends present and finally the day when he said, somewhat apologetically, “I have rented a small apartment on my own, would you like to come for coffee”…she went, she said packing night-clothes for one evening prepared to return the next day but as she was to say, “I stayed forever”….theirs would be a storybook relationship, until he died of a broken heart when his friends abandoned him for his support of Peronism


“Tania”, born Anna Luciana Divis in Toledo Spain (Libra), to a father who was a military officer…motivated by sibling rivalry, to compete with her older sister who was an opera singer, she studied singing and acting….Tania, renown for her sense of humor, became a famous singer of “cuples”, brief satirical Spanish songs…her first husband was a famous dancer whose stage name was “Mexican”; together they formed  ”Tania-Mexican Dancing Partners”….Discepolo first laid eyes on her at the “Follies Bergere” where she was singing “Esta Noche Me Emborracho” a tango for which Discepolo wrote both the music and the lyrics…she would later record, to great acclaim, his “Cafetin De Buenos Aires”…it was Jose Razzano who made the formal introduction between them….she would become friends with Juan and Eva Peron and appear in three films…she had a famous conflict with Tita Merello when the later chose to testify on behalf of Discepolo’s son over an inheritance dispute…while Discepolo died young at the age of 50, she lived until the age of 106…when asked the secret of her longevity she answered, “I always have a whiskey with lunch”



He was a Mark Twain like character – cantankerous, tough, misanthropic, effusive and irascible by turns, addicted to profanity; this was Virulazo (Libra)…he did not like Piazzolla, he did not like the Japanese, Venice stank, John Travolta and Michael Jackson were queers; he once told Henry Kissinger to go to hell when he asked him to dance for free….he grew up tough; he began working at the age of eight first as a shoe shine boy outside whore houses…later selling sausage sandwiches to revelers late at night…a common laborer in a clamorous, rank-smelling slaughter-house; what little education he had he learned on the streets…his father was a Basque and his mother Italian but they separated early on and he was unloaded to his grandparents….”everything I am and all that I have accomplished I owe to my grandfather” he would say with tears in his eyes….he learned to dance tango by watching and his first performance was with his mother at the age of 12…he started dancing in cafes of the Mataderos neighborhood for spare change and for something to eat…


Later while dancing at a festival, he came to the attention of the master of ceremonies, the legendary lyricist Celedonio Flores and the singer Carlos Acuna; they encouraged and helped him….the very next day he appeared at the Armonia Cafe for his first professional engagement to great aclaim…in 1952 out of 157 dance couples, he won first place in a dance contest sponsored by the Aquila Chocolate Company…he would be Robert Duvall’s first tango teacher and he would be admired by the likes of Nureyev and Anthony Quinn whom he met in New York where he stayed at a luxurious hotel on 5th Avenue….his beloved dance partner Elvira had actually been his first girlfriend…they separated, he married his first wife Aida at the age of 18…nine years later he and Aida divorced and in stroke of destiny, he re-met Elvira whom he would marry and who would be his beloved dance partner for his whole life…his favorite tango was “Berretin” by Pedro Laurenz and his favorite singer was Carlos Gardel, who he said, moved him to tears each time he heard him sing…”crying”, he said, “is no longer just for women”