Leonel Edmundo Rivero, was born on June 8, 1911 in Valentín Alsina, Buenos Aires. Being very small, Edmundo and his family moved to the town of Moquehuá in the Province of Buenos Aires, since his father, a railway employee, had been appointed as head of that station. But Edmundo falls seriously ill and the local doctors are unable to discover what he had, so the father chooses to quit his job as a railroad worker and return to Buenos Aires, where they finally manage to cure the youngest of the three Rivero brothers.
In Buenos Aires they move to a mansion where their grandparents lived, on Av. Del Tejar and Manuela Pedraza streets, in the Saavedra neighborhood.
Since he was a child, Edmundo has been attracted to music and the guitar in particular. In his home, music and poetry forcefully enter his life, not only from his parents, but also accompanied by an entire cultural environment. His uncle Justo Duarte, a general accountant at the Government House, fond of music and singing, organized meetings with poets and singers, while another maternal uncle, Ángel Duró, encouraged him to read Almafuerte, Lugones, Espronceda and Edgar Allan Poe, among others. “Singing is a congenital emotional manifestation. My training is due to my parents, my uncles and the payadores and improvisers that I listened to,” he said in an interview.
Already a student at the Molinari School primary school, on Núñez and Roque Pérez streets, in the Saavedra neighborhood, Rivero "debuted" singing verses by Martín Fierro in one of his patriotic events.
Around the age of 18, Rivero was already a well-known guitarist in the neighborhood, and he frequented different taverns and bars, one of them was "El Cajón" located meters from the Saavedra bridge, an old bowling alley where thugs, payadores and carreros came. After this stage of informal learning, it can be said, Edmundo would begin his studies in singing and classical guitar at the National Conservatory of Music.
In the early 1930s, he formed a duo with his sister Eva and another with his brother Aníbal. With it they broadcast popular music on Radio Cultura; With him they performed Spanish music on guitar at tea time at the Alvear Palace Hotel.
He then became accompanist for other singers who would gain popularity, such as Nelly Omar and Francisco Amor. Tango was not his first love, nor was Gardel. In an interview he declared: “I listened to him (Gardel) on those old radios and I liked him a lot, but I was into something else. He still didn't sing tangos but southern songs: milongas, styles, vidalitas and things like that. On the other hand, I did learn a lot from opera, from lied. It happens that when one knows Schubert or Beethoven or Rossini or Wagner, the great musicians, one can pour that knowledge into tango.”
The guitar was not only the path to his first jobs, but also the entrance that allowed him to enter a world accessible to few, the underworld, the dubious bars, where thieves, thugs and drug dealers gathered, and which brought the lexicon that would finish incorporating and then convert it into cultural heritage: lunfardo.
Without a doubt, there is a great anecdote that would change his musical career. Edmundo said that meeting women was not easy outside of normal areas. So, together with his friend Benjamín Achával, they had articulated an unusual method, but one that had paid off: they called a random phone number and if a young woman answered, they would sing her a romantic song. One afternoon, after the song, a girl told him: “I have a conservatory and it would be good for my brother to listen to it. He is forming an orchestra.” It was Hermelinda de Caro, sister of Julio, an already successful violinist and orchestra director. The group belonged to José de Caro and he spent two years there receiving minimum pay, until Julio summoned him for the carnivals at the Pueyrredón Theater Cinema, located at Av. Rivadavia 6871 in the Flores neighborhood. “Instead of raising a mine, I raised an orchestra,” he said years later.
But money was still scarce. Then, a friend, Emilio Karstulovic, former car racer and owner of La Voz del Aire radio and Sintonía magazine, called him one afternoon and proposed a program. He accepted. Not even a day passed and he had already received an invitation from Horacio Salgán. He was an exquisite arranger, but he went against the rhythms accepted by the public. They looked for a place to play permanently, but everyone rejected them, so they had to wander around different bars. “Salgán's music, his orchestrations, at that time were revolutionary and I had a bass voice, something unheard of at a time when all tango singers exhibited a tenor register.” “What that director does is not tango and to make matters worse he has a singer who is sick with his chest,” they told them.
Edmundo Rivero's style did not represent the successful archetype of the pintón or the compadrito of the golden age of tango. His low register, in a context dominated by baritones and tenors, was also accompanied by lyrics with that language that was incomprehensible to many (lunfardo), when what marked the market then was the romantic. However, beyond the rejection, that singer with the cavernous voice was beginning to have his admirers.
'47 was the pivotal year. He joins Anibal Troilo's orchestra, and something unusual happens. People stop dancing and start clapping and throwing things in the air. This uncomfortable situation bothers Pichuco; an orchestra was the heart of a dance, not a show in itself, but success keeps them together.
The partnership lasted three years and left a couple dozen recordings, some in duet with Floreal Ruiz. Then, his voice became canonical in tangos like El Ultimo Organito, or Yo te bendigo, but above all, with Sur, by Homero Manzi and Anibal Troilo.
Already in the 1950s he had his own star and began to participate in films: Heaven in the Hands (1950), Al compás de tu lie (1951), Pelota de hide (1963), The Impure Goddess (1964), Buenos Aires , summer 1912 (1966) and Argentinísima II (1973).
Thus came the tours around the country, the big contracts and by 1959, he performed in Madrid for seven months. In the mid-60s he toured the countries of Latin America and the United States. He even reaches Japan, where he is a success. “In Japan there is a society, the 'Suivu Kai', whose translation is, approximately, 'The Wednesday Meeting'. Its subsidiaries bring together twenty million and are called 'Los maniaticos del tango', 'Corrientes y Esmeralda', 'Los locos del compás', 'Buenos Aires'. Every week his members study Spanish for an hour, to be able to understand the lyrics of our songs, they discuss Buenos Aires styles of interpretation and make fervent apologies for our singers,” he said upon returning from the trip. In honor of that experience he composed Arigató, Nipón, Arigató (Thank you, Japan, Thank you), with words in the local language.
In 1965 he sang the milongas of Jorge Luis Borges set to music by Ástor Piazzolla. Despite his suburban knowledge, he claimed to enter “another country” in those letters, despite naming beings and places that he believed he had known for years,” he wrote in “Una luz de guerra,” his autobiography. In addition, he published “The Voices” and “Gardel y el canto”.
In 1969 he opened the emblematic bar “El Viejo Almacén”, on Av. Independencia 299, in the San Telmo neighborhood, which became one of the main Buenos Aires tango centers and where not only the great references of city music passed, but also also foreign visitors such as the former kings of Spain Juan Carlos and Sofía, Gina Lollobrigida, Rafaela Carrá or Joan Manuel Serrat. At the entrance there is a plaque that says: "In memory of Edmundo Rivero and all those who on this corner have recreated the Poetics Tanguera and Lunfarda"
In 1985 he received the Konex Platinum Award for Best Male Tango Singer. Among the audience was one of his biggest admirers, then-president Raúl Alfonsín.
The “Ugly”, as they called him, the cavernous voice of tango, the suburbanite who gave a twist to this musical genre, suffered cardiomyopathy in December of that same year, and after several weeks hospitalized, he died on January 18, 1986.