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The Tango Made Flesh: Carlos Gardel

Published in History Today

The tango was to Argentina what jazz was to New Orleans. As Simon Collier explains, it swept the world in the pre-First World War era and Carlos Gardel was its star.

Portrait of Gardel in a subway station named after him in Buenos Aires.The name of Carlos Gardel is hardly a household word in the English-speaking world. In Latin America, and especially in Argentina, it very definitely is. For many millions of Latin Americans, Carlos Gardel was one of the authentic superstars of his time. Moreover he is still held in extraordinary affection by all who love the irresistible rhythm of the Argentine tango. Gardel was, quite simply, the greatest singer of tangos who ever lived and probably the finest individual talent ever to be associated with this particular form of popular music. He embodied its feeling, its spirit, better than any other artist before or since. In Libertad Lamarque's phrase, he was 'the tango made flesh'. Very few popular singers anywhere in the world have had quite so passionate a following.

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