Osvaldo Pedro Pugliese was born on December 2, 1905. He grew up in the Colegiales neighborhood, in a house located at Avenida Forest 1241. He was the son of a family of musicians, his father, Adolfo Pugliese, played the flute in the groups of neighborhood, essentially in quartets. And two of his older brothers, Vicente Salvador and Alberto Roque, were also musicians.
His father helped him take his first steps in music when he gave him a violin and enrolled him in the Odeón Conservatory, located at Av. Corrientes 5375 in Villa Crespo. However, there he discovered the instrument that fascinated him throughout his life: the piano. He studied with great teachers, such as Vicente Scaramuzza and Pedro Rubione.
At the age of fifteen he was part of a musical trio along with the bandoneonist Domingo Faillac and the violinist Alfredo Ferrito. In a bar called “Café de la Chancha” he debuted pure tango, with those two teachers. Later, he did so by participating with another group, which included Francisca Bernardo, the first bandoneon player in Argentina, better known as “Paquita” or “the flower of Villa Crespo”, who later died at just 25 years old.
He joined different musical groups until in the 1930s he formed his own orchestra together with the violinist Elvino Vardaro. At the “Café Nacional”, on Av. Corrientes 960, in the San Nicolás neighborhood, they made their first presentation and there they gained a wide impact. With that nascent fame, they managed to carry out their first tour of the country. But not everything turned out as they expected: the tour required more expenses than profits and they even had to pawn some of their instruments to be able to return.
In 1936 he created a sextet together with the bandoneonists Alfredo Calabro, Juan Abelardo Fernández and Marcos Madrigal, the violinists Rolando Curzel and Juan Pedro Potenza, and the double bassist Aniceto Rossi. This would be the orchestra with which he gained great recognition for 55 years, always with some changes, but faithful to the original spirit of the members. With this sextet, Osvaldo Pugliese created more than 150 songs. Some well-known such as “La Yumba”, “Memories”, “La Beba”, “Negracha” or “Malandraca”. He also recorded more than 600 pieces by other musicians and authors.
Osvaldo Pugliese is not only recognized as one of the great Argentine musicians who revolutionized the performance of tango on the piano, but also as a citizen committed to the work of musicians, performers, composers, and their rights and obligations as artists. As a result of his great commitment, in 1935, he promoted the Argentine Musicians Union of which he was member number 5, to promote the work of music as "a personal dignity and not a punishment", as they said from the organization..
A year later, he also joined the young Argentine Communist Party. His ideas and convictions earned him persecution, censorship and even prison during the government of Juan Domingo Perón and the subsequent dictatorship of the “Liberating Revolution.” However, Pugliese never stopped playing. Just a red carnation on the piano every time he played live indicated the colors that he embraced from politics and that became a symbol of his ideology.
In 1985, when he turned 80, he played with his orchestra at the prestigious Teatro Colón, before an audience that adored him and applauded him from the first to the last song. His orchestra featured prominent singers and performers such as Roberto Chanel, Alberto Morán, Jorge Vidal, Jorge Maciel, Miguel Montero, Alfredo Belusi, Adrián Guida and Abel Córdoba. The latter was the one who sang with the orchestra, for 30 years, directed by Maestro Pugliese.
He received innumerable distinctions both nationally and abroad, among them, the one awarded by the Cuban government, the “Alejo Carpentier” medal, the most important cultural distinction on the Island; The French government named him “Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et Letters” and Buenos Aires declared him an Illustrious Citizen.
The Argentine Society of Music Authors and Composers (SADAIC) and the Association of Tango Collectors placed a plaque on Av. Corrientes 960, where it was his first presentation with his own orchestra, in commemoration and for his 50 years of career and contribution to Argentine culture and tango. In 1990, he received the title of Honorary Academician of the National Academy of Tango.
On July 25, 1995, at the age of 89, he died in the City of Buenos Aires. His daughter Beba and granddaughter Carla, also pianists, continue the legacy of that musical great who, even today, is more relevant than ever.
Among his many recognitions, Pugliese has his corner named after him, on Av. Boedo 909 and Carlos Calvo, in the Boedo neighborhood. There, together with his wife, Lidia Elma “Beba”, they ended their walks that began at his house on Av. Corrientes 3742, in the Almagro neighborhood. On that corner they used to frequent the tables of the now-defunct “Café Alabama.” When this place was destroyed by a fire, its owners rebuilt it and called it "Memory" in honor of his first piece of music, because of the appreciation they had for it.
Pugliese is also often evoked by artists as a symbol of good luck. They say that during a recital by Charly García, a series of situations and technical problems arose that delayed the start of the show. The sound didn't work well, until someone on the team tried to test it with a Maestro Pugliese record. Everything began to improve and Charly gave his show. From there, this myth was born that attracts the musician to be invoked.
Several years later the little stamp appeared at the Buenos Aires Tango festival that was held at the end of February 2001, with an inscription on the back that reads:
“Protect us from everyone who doesn't listen. Protect us from the scorn of those who insist on the national chicken leg. Help us to enter into harmony and enlighten us so that misfortune is not the only cooperative action. Take us with your mystery towards a passion that does not break the bones and does not leave us in silence looking at a bandoneon on a chair.”
In the face of power outages, broken amplifiers, lost instruments and many other things that can happen during concerts or presentations, the Pugliese cabal seems to be always present. For this reason, there are many artists who paste one of his photos in a corner of the dressing room.