True Name: Acencio Eugenio Rodríguez
(6 September 1891 - 1 January 1952)
e was born in Carmen de Areco, province of Buenos Aires, son of Santos Reyes Rodríguez and Magdalena Cárdenas. His true name was Acencio Eugenio Rodríguez. During his entire artistic career, he signed his poems and his lyrics with a nickname composed of his second name and his mother's surname.
To trace back his life and his beginnings as author becomes very difficult nowadays. There are no direct relatives and most of his contemporaries have disappeared. Certain circumstances took place so that the bandoneonist, composer and leader Rafael Rossi, brought back to me many data kept in his memory about the poet. Rossi had been musical collaborator, friend and godchild of Cárdenas.
The guitarist José Francisco Savignano, who was Guillermo Barbieri's disciple, contributed as well with valuable data about Cárdenas, picked up from his teacher and from his own experiences. Such memories are the basis of this research, which together with other important testimonies and documents gathered thereafter, made possible to shape, for the first time, this biography and so rescue, the figure of its protagonist.
His childhood and adolescence are blurred with time, we only positively know that in the early twenties he began his activity as professional author, and that he married a 27 year-old Argentine girl with dark hair, Genoveva Sánchez, and that he definitively settled in the city of Buenos Aires. The marriage lasted twenty-eight years and was only interrupted by the sudden death of the poet.
On December 11, 1925 the poet was admitted in the Sociedad Argentina de Autores y Compositores de Música (SADAIC) (Argentine Society of Authors and Music Composers) and filed over 500 works in collaboration with different musicians.
Just a few songs written by him were enough for Cárdenas to enter the history of tango and remain in the memory of those who knew him and were in touch with him.
Of all his work as author only around eighty numbers were broadcast, which were premiered on radio or committed to record by singers and orchestras, since that time until the present.
Carlos Gardel was the principal interpreter of his pieces, a circumstance that encouraged the poet. El Zorzal was the ideal vehicle so that his numbers would turn into definitive hits and permanently remain in the popular feeling.
The guitarist Guillermo Desiderio Barbieri and the bandoneonist Rafael Rossi were those who most often collaborated with the poet, and who, like the bard José Rial (Jr.), were who encouraged Cárdenas in his beginnings and opened for him the big doors of success and popularity due to their close link with Carlos Gardel, besides the sincere friendship that tied them.
Between the years 1925 and 1931, the unforgettable singer recorded 29 Cárdenas numbers, backed by his guitarists and by the tango orchestra of Francisco Canaro as well. He sang the tango "Senda florida" with this orchestra and also with guitars.
With music by Guillermo Barbieri he wrote the tangos "Guaminí", "Tierra hermana", "Besos que matan", "Barrio viejo", the waltz "Alicia", the estilo "Salve patria" and the shimmy "Qué lindo es el shimmy".
With music by Rafael Rossi he made the tangos "Por el llano", "Ave cantora", "Perdonada", "La milonga" and the more popular ones "Fiesta criolla", and "Senda florida", besides the popular waltz "Rosas de abril".
With Miguel Correa he made "Flor de cardo", "Trapito" with the Servidio brothers, "Soñando" with Paquita Bernardo, "Sueños" with Ciriaco Ortiz, "El pibe" with José Pecora, "Tu mirada" with José Rosito, "Ave sin rumbo" with Gardel-Razzano, "Una lágrima" with Nicolás Verona, "Vida amarga" with Pascual Mazzeo, "Meditando" with Hugo L. Eveque, "Falsas promesas" with Ángel Riverol, "Te fuiste hermano" with Alberto Tavarozzi, the waltz "Mala suerte" with José María Aguilar, the ranchera "Mañanita de Campo" with Ángel Riverol, and finally with Esteban González, the shimmy "Sonrisas".
These are the 29 numbers of his that Carlos Gardel sang.
Cárdenas wrote as well refined poetry that was spread and published only in national magazines of the period, in which he was a permanent contributor: "Fray Mocho", "P.B.T.", "El Alma Argentina", "Clarinada" and "El alma que canta", among others.
He was a good guitar player. He played Spanish guitar by music and hummed in mezza voce, with finesse, when he composed some song or created a melody.
In 1919 he joined the gaucho group "Gloria, patria y tradición", which was a traditional outfit of the neighborhood of Parque de los Patricios (south center of the city of Buenos Aires). The guitarist Guillermo Barbieri also performed there in his beginnings.
Cárdenas was a guitar teacher and many people studied with him, his income was the result of teaching and collecting, at that time a miser amount, his royalties as author, and also by preparing recipes at a drugstore in his neighborhood.
He wanted to further his studies of guitar playing, by studying with Barbieri himself, just to accompany Carlos Gardel, but that dream did not come true.
He met Gardel for the first time at a meeting of authors and composers of popular music, where important figures of the genre reunited. On the one hand, his guitarist Guillermo Barbieri told the singer that Eugenio Cárdenas was present there. Gardel did not know him personally but had a great esteem of him as author, through some of his pieces he had already recorded.
On the other hand, the poet, until then preferred to be unnoticed, embarrassed by Gardel's presence, whom he idolized. He was awestricken when the singer asked bewildered why Cárdenas did not approach him to say hello so that he could know him. Barbieri told him where he was, and before the former was able to introduce him, Gardel went towards him and embraced him in a warm hug.
Afterwards he praised him as lyricist, congratulating him and showing his sincere admiration and affection. Cárdenas could not believe what had happened and was astonished because of his own shyness, due to the unexpected and noble attitude of Gardel. (A story told by José F. Savignano and heard in Barbieri's version, who placed the scene in the year 1926).
Of his work as author we highlight, besides the above-mentioned, the waltz "Trovas galanas" and "Yo soy la milonga", together with Barbieri; with Rafael Rossi´s music "Lamento criollo"; "Vieja milonga" with music by Samuel Castriota. He added lyrics to Juan Maglio "Pacho"´s "Sábado inglés", and Augusto Berto's "Queja gaucha".
He also added lyrics to the famous tango "9 de Julio" composed by José Luis Padula, different to the one added to the same tune by Lito Bayardo. The funny thing was that in 1961, the heirs of the composer filed a lawsuit to take out the lyrics added either by Cárdenas or by Bayardo. They came to an agreement by which both lyrics must appear in the sheet music sharing the authorship of the piece. Alberto Marino recorded it with Cárdenas´s lyrics accompanied by the orchestra of Osvaldo Tarantino, and Agustín Magaldi recorded it with Lito Bayardo´s words.
Published in the "Tango y Lunfardo" magazine, Number 52, Chivilcoy, February 23, 1990.