by Julio Nudler
Poet and lyricist.
(August 3, 1896 - July 28, 1947)
Full name: Celedonio Esteban Flores
Nickname: El Negro Cele
orn in Buenos Aires, at Villa Crespo neighborhood, the place where native and immigrants of various origins co-existed. His childhood and adolescence were spent amid such popular environment until he became, in the 20s, a very famous poet and lyric composer. His tangos, many times full of condemn, moral reflections and master descriptions of his characters, very much resorted to the "lunfardo", the local argot/slang. Like other famous lyricists composers, Flores was both an educated and popular poet. A bohemian, also boxer. His most creative time extended until the early 30s but his work survived.
In 1920, he sent to the then published newspaper "Ultima Hora" a poem entitled "Por la pinta" for which he received 5 pesos. But he would be much more rewarded when those verses called the attention of Carlos Gardel and his duet partner, José Razzano, who both composed the music. This is how the tango "Margot" was born: a bitter criticism to the humble beautiful girl who adopts a French style and perverts to get rid of her poverty fate, arousing people's feelings.
Gardel recorded 21 themes written by Celedonio including one of the most successful works ever existing: "Mano a mano", a tango describing a man who settles accounts with the woman he once loved and offers her his disinterested help when she became a "ramshackle old piece of furniture". Other remarkable tangos recorded by him include "El bulín de la calle Ayacucho", "Malevito", "Viejo Smoking", "Mala entraña", "Canchero", and "Pan". The last one contains a bare criticism to society's attitudes in the misery following the 1930 crisis. Not fond of boasting, Gardel refrained from recording one of Flores' greatest hits "Corrientes y Esmeralda" -a famous corner in Buenos Aires- because its lyrics told about women who dreamed of his handsome look.
For commercial reasons, Flores wrote for several years exclusively for Rosita Quiroga, a remarkable singer, of ill-bred origin ("arrabalera") , who eluded any refinement. But in the course of time Celedonio's tangos came to be the master pieces in the repertoire of many singers from Ignacio Corsini and Alberto Gómez to Edmundo Rivero and Julio Sosa.
Other lyrics which contributed value and success were those of "Muchacho", "Viejo coche", "Sentencia" (a protest theme), "Atenti, pebeta" (humorous), "Pobre gallo bataraz", "Si se salva el pibe" and "Por qué canto así". "La musa mistonga", registered by Quiroga on March 1, 1926 was the first electric phonograph recording in Argentina.
At the time of his death, tango lyrics had been -for four years- subject to a relentless examination by the government which cut out slang/argot expressions and any social or moral reference contrary to the ideology sought to be established. That attack to popular expression had started with the fascist-like military coup on June 4, 1943. The strong deformation suffered by his lyrics embittered the last years of Celedonio's existence. Censorship would be barred only after his death.
When asked in an interview about how he created his successful works, he answered: «I search for a piece of life, I live it through in my mind, I take it seriously, and then slowly and carefully I put to work with the lyrics. As I have had my own experiences and wandered around, as I've met scoundrels myself, I can boast to have lived thousand characters. I am not one of those who believe that the funny tango reflects people's feelings, we all know that tango is sad as any other music of ours».