Carlos Gardel dies: Argentina’s Tango Maestro

Tragic Loss: Renowned Tango Singer Carlos Gardel Dies in Plane Crash at Age 45

On June 24, 1935, the world lost one of its greatest tango singers, Carlos Gardel. Returning from a successful concert tour in Colombia, Gardel’s plane collided with another on the runway in Medellín. Sadly, none of the 25 souls on board survived the crash. Argentine icon Carlos Gardel may be gone, but his music will continue to live on in the hearts of millions.

Carlos Gardel’s birthplace is a disputed topic, depending on where you’re from. Uruguayans claim he was born in Tacuarembó, Uruguay, while the French say he was born in Toulouse, France. However, for Argentines, there’s no question that Carlitos Gardel is one of their own. Although there is no birth certificate to confirm his birthplace, it’s known that Carlitos arrived in Argentina as a two-year-old in 1892 with his mother. They settled in the provincial town of San Nicolás, outside Buenos Aires, where his mother worked in the French-style garment pressing industry that was popular in South America at the turn of the 20th century.

Discover the inspiring story of Carlos, the Creole Thrush who overcame limited education to become one of the most renowned singers of his time. Mentored by José Betinotti, Carlos’ sweet voice soon earned him fame and the nickname “Gardel”. Performing in bars, parties, and political meetings, he ultimately became El morocho del Abasto, acclaimed for his dark good looks. Join us in celebrating this remarkable journey of talent and perseverance.

Experience the dynamic duo of Carlos Gardel and José Razzano, who rose to fame during a singing competition at café El Pelado. Soaring to new heights, Dúo Nacional Gardel-Razzano toured Argentina, wowing audiences at the elegant Cabaret-Restaurant Armenonville before ultimately landing a performance at the esteemed Teatro Nacional of Buenos Aires. And with good looks and a captivating voice, Gardel needed only one thing to solidify his macho appeal: a dramatic altercation in which he was shot in the lung by Ernesto Guevara Lynch, father of the infamous Ernesto Che Guevara.

Gardel revolutionized the world of music with his rendition of Pascual Contursi and Samuel Castriota’s Mi noche triste in 1917, creating the tango-canción genre. This recording sold 10,000 copies and became a sensation across Latin America. His career skyrocketed as he starred in his first silent film, toured various countries, and sang on the popular Buenos Aires radio show Low Gran Splendid. He collaborated with Francisco Canaro´s orchestra and recorded hundreds of songs, including 514 tangos.

Gardel and Razzano took Europe by storm between 1923-1924 before returning home to become regulars on Argentine radio. Despite Razzano’s departure in 1925, Gardel continued as a solo artist, splitting his time between Argentina and Spain. In 1928, Gardel made a memorable Parisian debut and recorded music for the French market, selling rapidly and igniting tango’s spread throughout Western Europe. Upon returning home in 1929, Gardel signed a lucrative record deal with RCA, which resulted in his most productive period, making him a beloved icon amongst music lovers worldwide.

Gardel was inspired by Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer and turned to film to expand his reach. In 1930, he appeared in a series of shorts that introduced new songs and signed a deal with Paramount to enter the Spanish-speaking market. When he returned to France, he starred in Luces de Buenos Aires, his first full-length feature film. The film was a success in Latin America and spawned the hit song, “Tomo y Obligo.” Though he was immensely popular, his Argentine dialect was not always understood by the rest of the Spanish-speaking community. To remedy this, Paramount paired him with Argentine-born writer and lyricist Alfredo LePera in 1932. Together they wrote Gardel’s most beloved and popular hits, including the title song of Melodia de Arrabal. In just one year, the duo completed two full-length films (Espérame and Melodia de Arrabal) and one short (La Casa Es Seria) that helped solidify Gardel’s place in the world of film and music.

In 1933, Gardel returned to Argentina where he recorded and toured heavily. He then traveled to New York for his American radio debut with NBC, where he performed regularly for several months. While he attempted to sing in English, his limited skill in the language led to the idea being abandoned. Over the next two years, Gardel completed four more films including “El Dia que Me Quieras,” his best-loved, which featured yet another hit title song. The film also featured a brief appearance by Astor Piazzolla playing a street urchin. Despite previous setbacks with English, Paramount featured Gardel in a small part of their film “The Big Broadcast of 1936” with hopes of breaking him into an even larger market. Unfortunately, his bit was cut from the American release.

Gardel, the iconic figure of tango music, embarked on a tour of Caribbean and northern South America after completing his last film. But fate had other plans. While taking off from Medellín, Colombia on June 24, 1935, the plane carrying Gardel, LePera, and the rest of the entourage crashed into another one, killing everyone on board. The tragedy shook Latin America to the core, and thousands mourned his death during his funeral procession in Buenos Aires. Despite his untimely demise, Gardel’s following only grew with time, and his music remains a timeless treasure. His discography has been compiled and released on numerous labels over the years. To honor his 50th death anniversary, his classic “Por una Cabeza” was featured in several American films in the 1990s.

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