birth name: Francisco Canaro
artistry: violinist, director, composer
lived: 26 November 1888 - 14 December 1964
alias: Pirincho

Francisco Canaro was born in the city of San José de Mayo, Uruguay. Growing up very poor and without education, he faced a lifetime of menial labor. He opted to labor in music, however, and found widespread fame and enormous financial success.  Canaro would go on to become the richest man in tango history so much so that a popular saying arose “he has more money than Canaro”. Being one of the driving factors in the creation of the wildly successful Buenos Aires based Tango Music Industry of the Golden Era of Tango, Canaro earned a place as a national icon of wealth and prosperity, along with the inevitably associated greed.

Francisco Canaro

Francisco Canaro

Canaro and his orchestra, c.1930.

Canaro and his orchestra, c.1930.

 

fun facts

El Pirincho

El Pirincho

  • Francisco Canaro was called "Pirincho" from birth referring to the colorfully crested exotic bird native to the Rio Plata area.
  • Pirincho spent most of his childhood in the slums of Buenos Aires working as a newspaper boy and later as a house painter.
  • His first musical experience was learning a few guitar chords from the shoemaker next door.
  • He made his first violin out of a tin can and some plywood.
  • The first song he ever played was "El Lloron".
  • Canaro's first gig didn't work out due to frequent exchange of gunfire from the customers of the establishment as well as the murderous reputation of the local pimp.
 

musical success

Canaro's career finally started to gain some traction around 1908 when he teamed up with bandoneonist Vincente Greco and bolstered his professional reputation by playing in various nightclubs in the La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

In 1912, with the tangos "Pinta brava" and "Matasano", Canaro's long and prolific career as a composer made its debut. He was so prolific in fact, that he has historically been accused of plagiarism, or, in the very least, paying pennies for musicians to write songs for which he would have the rights and credit. The combination of his prowess in musical leadership and business networking led to his orchestra being the first to gain popularity in aristocratic circles, opening up the tango industry to a much needed wealthy demographic.

By 1925, Canaro was ready for the next phase in his conquest; he traveled to Paris and gained immediate popularity, winning him international prestige and great recognition back home. Upon his return to Argentina two years later, he toured the country extensively to further cement in his supremacy as the number one act in Tango's native homeland. He also capitalized perfectly on the uprise of a radical new media format: Radio.

After decades of one of the most highly successful recording and performing careers in music history, Canaro finally succumbed to the rare Paget's disease. His wealth was divided amongst his lovers and children, and while the city of Montevideo honors him with a name of a street, to this day no institution, nor street has been named in his honor in Buenos Aires.