by Julio Nudler
(March 30, 1920 June 28, 1982)
aúl Berón was, for some people, the best orchestra singer in the history of tango, although other major vocalists, such as Floreal Ruiz or Roberto Goyeneche, rival him this position in the opinion of the connoisseurs.
In an undeniable Gardelian tradition, tenor register and velvet sound, his peak in popularity coincided exactly with the period of greatest popularity for tango: from his inclusion in the Miguel Caló orchestra in 1939 until his withdrawal from the Aníbal Troilo orchestra in 1955. The wide and varied repertory sung by Berón reveals his skill to understand every topic and mood of the genre, from the dramatic to the funny ones, whom he always interpreted with finesse and moderation, quite far from extremes. He was a warm intimate singer who turned around the circuit of the most elaborated tango, as his career with leaders of high quality as Lucio Demare or Argentino Galván shows us.
He belonged to a generation of intelligent, refined and concerned singers which included Alberto Marino, Oscar Serpa, Carmen Duval, María de la Fuente and others.
Maybe we can criticize a certain darkness in his vocal emission which at times makes the understanding of words difficult.
He was born in Zárate, a small city with port on the Paraná river, 150 kilometers north far from Buenos Aires. In his familiy there were musicians and singers, some of them would be famous. As a child, his beginning was a duet with his elder brother José, who also achieved a name in tango but of a less importance. His vocal timbre was quite similar to Raúl's what misleads the unexperienced listeners to take him for his brother.
Berón made himself known through the radio, working in various broadcasts as a soloist singer with guitars. It was the time when radio programming was filled with live artists all day long, what offered hundreds of them at least the chance of being heard when they were scarcely paid.
Most them were forgotten, but it was not Berón´s case who was invited by the bandoneon player Caló in 1939 to join his orchestra which had Argentino Galván as arranger since 1937 and was to renew its members with talented young musicians such as the pianist Osmar Maderna or the violinist Enrique Mario Francini.
Beron's debut with Caló on record was on April 29, 1942 (Odeón) with the great successful: "Al compás del corazón", a very peculiar tango by Domingo Federico and Homero Expósito. On the other side of the record: "El vals soñador". Among the twenty eight tunes he recorded with his orchestra stand out: "Entre sueños", "Lejos de Buenos Aires", "Tristezas de la calle Corrientes" , "Tú" and "Mi moro" (these last two at a later stage in 1949 and 1950, respectively.), indeed there are no recordings of little value.
He left Caló, to whose orchestra he would return more than once, to take part in the orchestra of the pianist and inspired composer Lucio Demare. With him he recorded anthological renditions of tangos such as "El pescante", "En un rincón", "Una emoción", "Qué solo estoy", "Y siempre igual" and the waltz "No nos veremos más". Although the latter belongs to Demare, it was not Berón who recorded with that orchestra the most renowned tangos composed by its conductor, such as "Malena" or "Mañana zarpa un barco". But he sang and recorded "Tal vez será su voz" with lyrics by Homero Manzi. This tango was called "Tal vez será mi alcohol", but the censoring established after the military coup in June 4, 1943 did not allow the inebriation of the protagonist.
Another stage of importance -but in way frustrated- in Berón´s career was that of his association with Francini-Pontier, an orchestra co-led by the violinist Francini and the bandoneonist Armando Pontier, former members of the Caló orchestra who, like the singer, came from Zárate. In 1945 that new group was to premier Tango Bar, a café with a stage for the orchestra which would become a temple for the genre. Berón recorded with that group of advanced musical conception, between 1946 and 1949, a total of 13 songs as soloist, plus other three in duet. However, his repertory was relatively poor in clear contrast with the songs chosen for Roberto Rufino. The most interesting of Berón´s discography with Francini-Pontier is "Y dicen que no te quiero", "Como tú", "Remolino", and "Uno y uno".
Then came the brilliant collaboration of Berón in Troilo's orchestra, probably the most revered in tango. That combination gave birth to marvelous versions,such as some old pieces like "De vuelta al bulín" and "Ivette" or new songs like "Discepolín", a moving tribute offered by Troilo and Manzi, who was nearing death, to the genial lyricist of "Yira, yira" and "Cambalache", Enrique Santos Discépolo while he was still alive. Discépolo would die a few months later.
Around those years the singer's voice, under a strain because of the overwhelming success achieved by Troilo, started to give hints of fatigue.
Another disadvantage against the quality of his recordings where the poor technical conditions in TK recording company where the orchestra had begun to record.
Except for the re-encounters with Caló, Berón did not attempt to be part of any orchestra again. Out of this later declining stage we can highlight "Yo quería ser feliz" and "Por qué soy reo" among his recordings with Galván providing his orchestral accompaniment.