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Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel (born Charles Romuald Gardes; 11 December 1890 – 24 June 1935) was a singer, songwriter, composer and actor, and the most prominent figure in the history of tango. The unerring musicality of Gardel's baritone voice and the dramatic phrasing of his lyrics made miniature masterpieces of his hundreds of three-minute tango recordings. Together with lyricist and long-time collaborator Alfredo Le Pera, Gardel wrote several classic tangos.Gardel died in an airplane crash at the height of his career, becoming an archetypal tragic hero mourned throughout Latin America. For many, Gardel embodies the soul of the tango style. He is commonly referred to as "Carlitos", "El Zorzal" (The Song Thrush), "The King of Tango", "El Mago" (The Magician), "El Morocho del Abasto" (The Brunet Boy from Abasto), and "El Mudo" (The Mute).Early lifeGardel was born to unmarried 25-year-old laundress Berthe Gardes, the baby registered under the name Charles Romuald Gardes in Toulouse, France, on 11 December 1890. The father of the baby boy was listed on his birth certificate as "unknown"; eleven days later Berthe Gardes signed a statement establishing the baby's father as Paul Laserre, a married man who left Toulouse a few months before the baby was born. Berthe Gardes left Toulouse a few years later, likely to escape the social stigma of having a child born out of wedlock. In early 1893 in Bordeaux, France, mother and son boarded the ship SS Don Pedro and sailed to Buenos Aires, arriving on 11 March 1893. Berthe Gardes had her passport recorded; she told immigration authorities that she was a widow. The two-year-old boy was recorded as Charles Gardes.Gardel grew up going by Carlos, the Spanish version of his French name, and often by the familiar diminutive form Carlitos. He lived in the Abasto neighborhood of Buenos Aires. He attended Pio IX Industrial high-school located in the Almagro neighborhood of Buenos Aires. His mother worked pressing clothes in the French style.CareerGardel began his singing career in bars and at private parties. He also sang with Francisco Martino and later in a trio with Martino and José Razzano. Gardel created the tango-canción in 1917 with his rendition of Pascual Contursi and Samuel Castriota's Mi Noche Triste. The recording sold 10,000 copies and was a hit throughout Latin America.Gardel went on tour through Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Colombia, as well as making appearances in Paris, New York, Barcelona and Madrid. 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 for Paramount in France and the U.S. While sentimental films such as Cuesta abajo (1934) and El día que me quieras (1935) lack lasting dramatic value, they were outstanding showcases of his tremendous singing talents and movie star looks.Romantic lifeGardel was aware of the fact that much of his popularity was based on his attractiveness to women. In an effort to seem as if he were available to any woman, he sought to keep his love life secret. Gardel had one major girlfriend in his life: Isabel del Valle. He met del Valle in late 1920, when he was performing at the Esmeralda Theater in Buenos Aires. They were close for more than a decade. Gardel and del Valle were not seen together very often in public. Gardel's mother and del Valle's family helped make sure the relationship was not well known. Only Gardel's closest friends knew about it.Gardel arranged for del Valle to have a house; he provided money for her to live on. Around 1930 the relationship began to degrade. Gardel had his lawyer stop making payments to del Valle, who later married another man and moved to Uruguay. She was always respectful of the memory of Gardel, even when interviewed about him in late life for a 1980s television program.DeathGardel died on 24 June 1935 in an airplane crash in Medellín, Colombia. Others who died included the pilot Ernesto Samper, lyricist Alfredo Le Pera, guitarists Guillermo Desiderio Barbieri and Ángel Domingo Riverol, several business associates, and other friends of the group. It is believed that a third guitarist, José María Aguilar Porrás, died a few days after the crash.Millions of Gardel's fans throughout Latin America went into mourning. Hordes came to pay their respects as his body was taken from Colombia through New York City and Rio de Janeiro. Thousands rendered homage during the two days he lay in state in Montevideo, the city in which his mother lived at the time. Gardel's body was laid to rest in La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires.Birthplace controversyThe place and year of Gardel's birth was a controversy that provoked debate; Toulouse, France, in 1890 was the most widely accepted version for many years. This was confirmed in 2012 with the location of his birth certificate. Scholars such as Vanderbilt University history professor Simon Collier, University of Belgrano agriculture history professor Osvaldo Barsky and Uruguayan history professor Jorge Ruffinelli from Stanford University write about how Gardel was born in Toulouse, France, in 1890, and how he laid a false trail about his birthplace beginning in 1920, when he was almost 30.In October 1920, Gardel first applied for Uruguayan citizenship; in Buenos Aires he went to the Uruguayan consulate to complete paperwork that said he was born in 1887 in Tacuarembó, Uruguay. One month later he was issued a new Argentine identity card that listed him as a Uruguayan national. On 7 March 1923 he applied for citizenship in Argentina. On 1 May 1923 he took the oath of Argentine citizenship. Today, there is no absolute certainty regarding why he took these steps. The most likely reason for this act was to avoid problems with French authorities during an upcoming tour of France. As a French citizen by birth, Gardel had been required to register with the French military during the Great War. It is likely that Gardel never registered; his name is not found on any lists of registrants. Uruguay maintained a neutrality policy during the war, so Gardel probably chose Uruguayan citizenship on that basis.The Uruguayan argument is that Gardel was born in 1887 the son of influential Uruguayan landowner Carlos Escayola and Escayola's sister-in-law, 13-year-old Maria Lelia Oliva. The unwanted boy, named Carlos, was offered to Bertha Gardès who was passing through the area on a cabaret dance tour. Gardès took the boy with her back to France, where she was from. Later, she and the boy traveled again, this time to Buenos Aires, where they settled. Others describe Gardès as a woman who ironed and pressed clothing in Toulouse in 1890, not as a touring dancer three years earlier.After Gardel's death, his legal representative, Armando Defino, produced a handwritten will which he said was written by Gardel himself, stating he was born in Toulouse, France, to Berthe Gardès (1865–1943), and baptized with the name of Charles Romuald Gardès. This statement agrees with the original birth certificate registered in Toulouse on 11 December 1890. On 14 April 1937, the government of Uruguay declared Berthe Gardès to be Gardel's sole heir.In his youth in Buenos Aires, Gardel's group of close friends called him "El francesito" (Frenchie), acknowledging his French origin. After 1920, Gardel gave contradictory stories about his birthplace. Reporters often wrote that Gardel was Uruguayan, born in Tacuarembó. In the newspaper El Telégrafo (Paysandú, Uruguay, October 25, 1933), Gardel was reported as saying, "I'm Uruguayan, born in Tacuarembó". In the June 1935 issue of Caretas magazine of Antioquia, Colombia, Gardel was reported as saying, "My heart is Argentinian, but my soul is Uruguayan, because that is where I was born". In 1931, Gardel wrote in a witness document, "I am French, born in Toulouse, 11 December 1890, son of Berthe Gardés."Music CompositionsGardel wrote the music and Alfredo Le Pera the lyrics for the following compositions:


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