Enrique Santos Discépolo, also known as Discepolín, was born on March 27, 1901 in a house located on Paso 111 street in the Balvanera neighborhood. His father was an orchestra musician, and he died at an early age. Later, his mother died. It was then that his older brother Armando Discépolo, an important playwright, took charge of his care after marrying, and was also the one who introduced him to the artistic world after Enrique confessed his interest in acting.
On October 22, 1917, he debuted as an actor in “Chueco Pintos”, by Armando Discépolo and Rafael José de Rosa and, the following year, he premiered his first play “El Duende”, written with Mario Folco, at the National Theater. at Avenida Corrientes 960 in the Balvanera neighborhood.
In parallel to his theatrical life that he developed both in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Discépolo wrote tango lyrics. But unlike the other composers, who used to write about passionate dramas, Discépolo reflected in his lyrics the economic and social difficulties of the 20s and 30s, decades in which he lived. This is how, for example, "Qué Vachaché" was born.
In 1928 he wrote "Esta noche me emborracho", with Azucena Maizani giving voice to it, achieving great success, and the first for Discépolo given that his previous lyrics did not have such an impact. From that moment on he began to have important recognition among tango figures.
He later released "Chorra", and Tita Merello made "Qué Vachaché" a hit. Of course, Carlos Gardel also recorded Discépolo tangos, such as the unforgettable version of "Yira Yira", in 1930.
But although Discépolo is remembered mostly for his lyrics, he also worked as a writer and actor in plays. In his tango compositions, several of his most remembered songs were called fundamental tangos or “golden tangos”, such as: “Yira, yira”, “Cambalache”, “Uno” and “Cafetín de Buenos Aires”. In these he expressed his discontent with the social and economic reality of the country, in which he embodied humble characters with a certain tone of disagreement and criticism.
In 1923 he premiered, together with his brother, “El Organito”, a work that shows frustrated people who were expelled from a society created for a select few. And in the following decades he wrote his most notable tangos: "Desencanto", "Uno", with music by Mariano Mores, and "Canciónesperadas".
At the beginning of the 1930s, Enrique wrote musical works such as “Wunderbar” and “Three Hopes.” Then, he traveled to Europe and, upon his return, he began to be involved with cinema in the role of actor, director and screenwriter. In 1935 he composed for the film “Alma de Bandoneón”, one of his emblematic tangos: "Cambalache".
Regarding cinema, he acted in the film “Mateo”, by Daniel Tinayre, and “Melodías Porteñas”, for which he also composed two songs: one with the same name as the feature film and “Condena”. As a director he released his first film titled “Cuatro Corazones”, for which he did not receive good reviews.
By 1940 he directed two more films. “Caprichosa y milonaria”, starring Paulina Sigerman, who is also a screenwriter, and “Un Señor Mucamo”, where Tito Lusiardo, Osvaldo Miranda, Eduardo Rudy and Armando Bo worked. Later, “Fantasma de Buenos Aires” was released, also under his direction, and one of Nini Marshal's films: “Cándida, la mujer del mundo”, where he also wrote the script.
References and Photographs:
Horvath, Ricardo: “Esos malditos tangos”, págs. 139/140, Buenos Aires 2006. Editorial Biblos ISBN 950-786-549-7
His work was affected several times by the suppression of the lunfardo language, a recurring tool in his work, by different military campaigns in the 1940s. The restrictions continued when the government of Juan Domingo Perón took over and in 1949 Sadaic directors le They asked the administrator of Postal and Telecommunications in an interview to have them annulled, but to no avail. They then obtained an audience with Perón, which took place on March 25, 1949, and the President – who stated that he was unaware of the existence of these directives – left them without effect and “Uno”, like many other tangos, was able to return to Radio.
In 1947 he composed “Cafetín de Buenos Aires”, one of his most remembered tangos. He later produced and participated in numerous films and plays, many of them released after his death.
Discepolín's last film as an actor and screenwriter was “El Hincha”, which was released in 1951 and left a series of unforgettable phrases that define the Argentine soccer fan: “What would a club be without the fan? An empty bag. The fan is the soul of the colors. He is the one who cannot be seen, the one who gives everything without expecting anything. "That's the fan... THAT'S ME."
Discépolo died on December 23 of that same year, in his house at Avenida Callao 765 in the San Nicolás neighborhood due to heart syncope. It is said that the artist had already been plunged into deep depression after expressing his public defense of the Peronist government and the rejection that such affiliation produced, in a certain sector of society. He went so far as to buy all the tickets to his shows so that when he came on stage he would see the theater empty. These acts of people he considered friends would have filled him with deep sadness.
His deep and critical lyrics are clearly still valid to this day, and have become fundamental anthems of tango.
In the city of Buenos Aires there are several places and works named in honor of the great artist as a tribute, such as the Enrique Santos Discépolo Passage. Regarding the street that remembers him, it is one of the few diagonal passages that the city has, and it is also an artery that has a serpentine design. Located in Balvanera (on the border with San Nicolás) it goes from the corner of Callao and Lavalle, to the intersection of Corrientes and Riobamba.
Also in his memory at the Corrientes station on Line H, there are two works in the acrylic on canvas technique that pay tribute to him, made by the artists Jorge Muscia and Alfredo Martínez, and are called “Yira –Yira” and “ Cambalache”, respectively.
In “Yira –Yira” the work is inspired by a video made around 1930 in which Gardel questions Discépolo about what he wanted to do with said song. At the end, Gardel exclaims “bang” and pretends that he shoots him, as can be seen in the mural.
In the work “Cambalache” you can see the artist dressed in a suit as dark as the night, his heart on fire in his hand and in the background, the moon simulates the halo of a tango saint. It is surrounded by ceibo flowers that frame it as a personality and heritage of national tango.
In addition to these beautiful works, at the Lima station on Line A, you can also find the artist portrayed in the mural “Músicos de Buenos Aires III” by Hermenegildo Sábat. This was made using the ceramic mural technique and brings together Discépolo with Aníbal Troilo, Homero Manzi and Carlos Gardel, on a stage dotted with flowers.