by Julio Nudler
Singer, lyricist and composer
(April 21, 1904 - October 2, 1990)
Full Name: Mercedes Simone
Nickname: La Dama del Tango (the "Tango Lady")
or many people, she was the most remarkable female tango singer or at least the most representative and eclectic. Considering her popularity, she made few recordings and what is worse, her repertoire -of an irregular quality- combined tango, milonga and "porteño" waltz with several country or exotic genres, reflecting her continental projection. She reached the top of fame in the 30s and 40s. Her art was basically addressed to the large portion of urban middle class through an emotional yet refined style. Thus, she avoided "lunfardo" expressions (Buenos Aires argot or slang) and cultivated a naive romanticism.
Mercedes Simone was born in Villa Elisa, a little town from where her family would move to the nearby city of La Plata, the capital city of the Province of Buenos Aires. Here, she started singing in her school choir. As a teenager, she worked as shop assistant and then, while working for a printing house, she met the man who would then become her husband, the guitar player and singer Pablo Rodriguez who during the weekends traveled around neighbor towns to earn some extra money with his art.
A renown singer and composer of that time, Alfredo Pelaia, advised Rodriguez to include Mercedes in his shows. In 1926, few years after their marriage, she made her professional debut accompanied by her husband, at Los Dos Chinos tea room in the southern city of Bahía Blanca, on the borderline between the pampas and the Patagonia. After some shows in the provinces, she showed up in Buenos Aires for the first time, singing at the most important café in the city: the "Nacional" along the strategically located Corrientes street, with her husband and Reynaldo Baudino playing the guitar.
Settled in Buenos Aires, she was hired to perform at several theaters where she was picked out by Radio Nacional (later called Radio Belgrano) managers where she would perform for six years. Her first records appeared on December 15, 1927 with the tangos "Estampa rea" and "El Morito" for the Víctor company, accompanied by guitars. In all she recorded over 240 songs for several companies: the already mentioned Victor company and also Odeón, Sonolux from Colombia, TK and "H y R". She also performed at radios and stages all over the continent, becoming particularly popular in Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, Chile and Brazil.
Simone belonged to the rich generation of singers of the mid 20s, a unique generation that paved the way for women in tango. In those years singers such as Azucena Maizani, Rosita Quiroga, Libertad Lamarque, Ada Falcón and others with very different registers would appear. From them all, Simone stood out as the most universal tango singer. With her mezzo-soprano register, slow rhythm and perfect diction she became a pattern to follow.
Her most select versions include "La marcha nupcial" and "Milonga sentimental" in 1932; "La última cita", "Mía", and "Cuatro palabras" in 1933; "Esta noche me disfrazo" and "Esquinas porteñas" in 1934; "Será una noche" and the waltz "Náufrago" in 1936; "Milonga triste" in 1937; "Abandono", "Caricias", "Carnaval de mi barrio", "Vieja amiga" and "Media vida" in 1938; "Claudinette" in 1942; "Barrio de tango" and "Garúa" in 1943; and "Cada día te extraño más", "Verdemar", "Motivo sentimental" and "Otra noche" in 1944.
In her recordings and several radio broadcasts, Simone was accompanied by members of the Orquesta Típica Víctor, by the Trío Típico directed by Sebastián Piana, and by the orchestras of Juan Carlos Cambón, Cristóbal Herreros in Colombia and Emilio Brameri.
In 1933 she also took part in "Tango" -the first talking picture- with her song "Cantando" and then, in many other movies of short success. She composed the tangos "Oiga agente", "Inocencia", and "Zapatos blancos", and she wrote the lyrics and music of "Cantando", "Incertidumbre" and "Tu llegada", among others.