Each year, on May 3, we remember the passing of the iconic poet, lyricist of tangos, vals and milongas, a journalist, politician, screen writer and Argentinian cinematographic director, known as Homero Manzi (also known by the nickname Arauco).
He was born in Añatuya, Santiago del Estero, Argentina, on November 1, 1907 and raised in the porteño neighbourhood of Pompeya. He had a gift for writing since a Young age (1921), his first known lyric: ¿Por qué no me besás? (vals), that was later recorded by Ignacio Corsini, in 1928, starts like this: “My illusion is extinguished, /And filled with shadows/My soul is torn, /Making echo where your love used to be/…”. Later, in 1926he wrote his first tango success “Viejo ciego”, music by Sebastián Piana and Cátulo Castillo: “You look like a verse/ From crazy Carriego/ You look like the soul/Of a violin/ Punctual church man, so tired and so blind/Filled with sorrow, filled with ‘splin’/When I hear your notes, memories invade my body/Of that girl from far before/Come on old blind man, play a tango/ A slow and sad one, that I want to cry”.
Manzi mastered the poetry in his lyrics like no other, with a vast musical repertoire (75 works: 46 tangos, 15 vals and 14 milongas) while using metaphors to describe social or moral situations, avoiding the use of lunfardo. He expressed nostalgia for his por neighborhood, its characters, love lost, the lack of trust in modernity (“I don´t like the street/neither I like the modern life.”). It has been said “The tango lyrics reaches its maximum splendor with Homero Manzi, who conciliates literary refinement with neighborhood sensibility” and that “tango leaves the compadrito and the knife to merge into the city life”.
Creator of several tangos, like: “El último organito” music by his son Acho, “Ninguna”, alongside Fernández Siro; “Mañana zarpa un barco”, “Malena”, “Solamente ella”, and “Tal vez será mi alcohol” (censorship would re name it “Tal vez será su voz”) alongside Lucio Demare; “Abandono”, with Pedro Maffia; “Monte criollo”, with Francisco Pracánico; “Recién”, with Osvaldo Pugliese; “En un rincón”, with Héctor María Artola; “Fueye” with singer Charlo; “Barrio de Tango”, “Discepolín”, “Sur” and “Ché Bandoneón” with his great friend Aníbal Troilo.
“Sur” is considered his greatest creation: “Nostalgia for the things that have been, /sand that life took away/the sorrow of neighborhoods that have changed/and the bitterness of a dying dream…”. “Discepolín” a tribute to his friend Enrique Santos Discepolo, that concludes with the phrase: “Get up, that everything is hurting Discepolin…”.
His work as a lyricist is also well known, writing milongas with Sebastián Piana´s music, such as: “Milonga Sentimental”, “Bettinoti”, “Milonga de Puente Alsina”, “Carnavalera”, “Milonga del Novecientos”, “Milonga triste”.
Likewise, he was a lyricist and a director. He directed, along Ralph Pappier, two movies: “Pobre mi madre querida” (1948) and “El último payador” (1950). As a screen writer he took part in 24 movies, such as “Escuela de Campeones” (1950), “Donde mueren las palabras” (1946), “Pampa bárbara” (1945), “Su mejor alumno” (1944), “El viejo Hucha” (1942), “Nobleza gaucha” (1937). Furthermore, he composed the music for the movies “Tango” (1933), “Las del Barranco” (1938), “El hombre que nació dos veces” (1938), “La canción que tú cantabas” (1939), “Fortín alto” (1941).
He worked as a Literature and History professor in the National Schools Mariano Moreno and Domingo Faustino Sarmiento up to 1930, when he was imprisoned for his political participation alongside the Unión Cívica Radical, by the Government of José Félix Uriburu.
On 1935, alongside Arturo Jauretche, Raúl Dellepiane and other political figures, he creates FORJA (Fuerza de Orientación Radical de la Joven Argentina or Young Argentina´s Radical Orientation Forces), an ideological movement that was born in the crisis that the Radical movement was suffering at the time. In 1947 Homero Manzi is drawn to the Peronism movement after being dazed by Perón himself, and that earned him his expulsion from the UCR.
Finally, between 1948 and 1950 he was elected president of the S.A.D.A.I.C. (Sociedad Argentina de Autores y Compositores or Argentinian Society of Authors and Composers), an institution that watches over and defends the author and composer rights.
Manzi´s premature death at 44, defeated by cancer, was cried by Troilo on “Responso”, a touching instrumental tango.
Let’s enjoy one of some of his iconic tangos: