Carlos Gardel

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Carlos Gardel (1933)

Carlos Gardel (11 December 189024 June 1935) was an enormously popular Argentinian tango singer (though there is still controversy regarding his place of birth; many claim he was born in Tacuarembo, Uruguay) who was killed in an airplane crash at the height of his career. For many music fans, Gardel embodies the soul of the tango, a musical form and dance which evolved in the immigrant neighborhoods of Montevideo and Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century.

Gardel possessed a dark, sensual baritone voice which he deployed with unerring musicality and dramatic phrasing, creating miniature masterpieces among the hundreds of three-minute tangos which he recorded during his lifetime. Together with his long-term collaborator, lyricist Alfredo Le Pera, Gardel also wrote several classic tangos, notably "Mi Buenos Aires Querido", "Volver", "Por una cabeza".

Although his precise origins are the subject of controversy, Gardel is generally thought to have been born as Charles Romuald Gards in Toulouse, France to unknown father and Berthe Gardes (1865-1943), who is said to have brought him at age 27 months to Argentina, where his name was Hispanized. Gardel grew up in Abasto, a barrio of Buenos Aires.

Gardel began his career singing in bars and parties and in 1913 formed a duet with Jos Razzano (which would last until 1925), singing a wide variety of folk songs. Gardel made the music his own by inventing the tango-cancin in 1917 with "Mi Noche Triste", which sold a 100,000 copies and was a hit throughout Latin America. Gardel went on to tour Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Colombia and made appearances in Barcelona, Paris and New York. He sold 70,000 records in the first three months of a 1928 visit to Paris. As his popularity grew, he made a number of films, which were essentially vehicles for his singing and his matinee-idol looks.

When Gardel and his collaborator Le Pera were killed in an airplane crash in Medelln, Colombia in 1935, millions of his fans throughout Latin America went into mourning. Hordes of people thronged to pay their respects as the singer's body travelled via Colombia, New York and Rio de Janeiro to its final resting place in La Chacarita cemetery in Buenos Aires.

Gardel is still revered in Buenos Aires, where people like to say of him "he sings better and better every day." His fans still like to place a lit cigarette in the fingers of the life-sized statue which adorns his tomb. One of Gardel's favorite phrases, Veinte años no es nada (Twenty years are nothing) became a famous saying across Latin America.

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A statue of Carlos Gardel outside the Abasto, Buenos Aires.


  • Luces de Buenos Aires (1931) (filmed in Paris)
  • Esperame (1933)
  • La Casa es seria (1933)
  • Melodia de Arrabal (1933)
  • Cuesta abajo (1934)
  • El Tango en Broadway (1934)
  • El Día que me quieras (1935)
  • Cazadores de estrellas (1935)

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