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Gardel, Carlos (1890–1935)

Gardel, Carlos (1890–1935)

Carlos Gardel (b. 11 December 1890; d. 24 June 1935), arguably Latin America's greatest twentieth-century popular singer and the supreme figure in the story of the Argentine tango. Born in Toulouse, France, he was taken at the age of two by his unmarried mother to Buenos Aires, where he grew up in tenement rooms and on the streets. A naturally gifted baritone, he won local renown in the modest barrios of Buenos Aires before forming a celebrated folk duo with a Uruguayan friend, José Razzano (1887–1960), that lasted from 1913 to 1925.

In the early 1920s, with the development of the tango as a form of popular song, a movement Gardel himself strongly pioneered, he concentrated mostly on the new genre, making hundreds of recordings. Successful visits to Spain in 1925–1926 and 1927–1928 were followed by spectacular triumphs in the cabarets and music halls of Paris in 1928–1929. By now a superstar in Argentina and Uruguay, Gardel went on to gain unrivaled popularity all over Latin America by starring in seven movies, shot in Paris (1931–1932) and New York (1934–1935). These were mediocre, low-budget productions that nonetheless memorably projected Gardel's exceptional vocal talent and winning personality.

While undertaking a tour of countries around the Caribbean in 1935, the star was tragically killed in an airplane collision at Medellín, Colombia. His repatriated remains were accorded a solemn funeral attended by enormous crowds in Buenos Aires. Gardel's memory has been the focus of an assiduously cultivated popular cult. The centennial of his birth, December 1990, was extensively celebrated throughout Latin America.

See alsoCinema: From the Silent Film to 1990; Music: Popular Music and Dance.


Simon Collier, The Life, Music, and Times of Carlos Gardel (1986).

José Gobello, Tres estudios gardelianos (1991).

Miguel Ángel Morena, Historia artística de Carlos Gardel: Estudio cronológico (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Barsky, Julián, and Osvaldo Barsky. Gardel: La biografía. Buenos Aires: Taurus, 2004

Contreras, Marily. Gardel: Es un soplo la vida: Biografía íntima de Carlos Gardel. Buenos Aires: Libros del Zorzal, 2005.

Ruffinelli, Jorge. La sonrisa de Gardel: Biografía, mito y ficción. Montevideo: Ediciones Trilce, 2004.

                                         Simon Collier

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