Ricardo García Blaya

f we had to choose a character who synthetizes the last thirty years of tango, undoubtedly the name of Polaco Goyeneche would come out. Not only for his extraordinary quality as singer, but and especially, for his being the archetype of the late brood of our city lineage and Bohemian life.

The expressiveness of his phrasing, the peculiar way of placing the voice, the strong personality of the one who knows the very essence of tango, make him different from all the other singers of our time.

His handling of accents and silence, the delay of some word of the lyrics, or the intimate whisper of a line, make him a unique vocalist, impossibly mistaken for somebody else.

His diction was perfect, even in the late years of his life when the decline of his voice, instead of harming his popularity, raised him to the category of living myth.

Some describe him as a diseur, something like a chansonnier of the 30s, an opinion I do not share —generally expressed to darken his importance— he was an exceptional singer, who like many other greats he had different stages for different tastes, but all them memorable.

El Polaco started his career as singer in the Raúl Kaplún´s orchestra in 1944, at eighteen. In 1952 and in the same role, he continued with Horacio Salgán, together with the singer Ángel Díaz —El Paya—, who was responsible for his nickname.

A few years later, in 1956, he became singer of Aníbal Troilo´s orchestra, quite a recognition to his initial career.

This kind of artistic birth is one of the reasons why Goyeneche understood tango as a musician, as a vocal instrument just like the singers in the 40s did, adjusting his throat and his phrasing in total harmony with the orchestra.

With time he achieved such perfection, that he would take the liberty of beginning a phrase off-beat —liltingly— to later reach the last notes at the end of the bar.

He was an interpreter respectful of tango rhythm, at a time when most soloists mixed it with ballads, with boleros or with sophisticated songs with a tango air.

Goyeneche´s repertory was very extended and varied, the earlier tangos and the modern ones march on parade without prejudice in his discographic career. He recorded “El motivo (Pobre paica)”, by Juan Carlos Cobián and Pascual Contursi, and he was the first in recording “Balada para un loco” by Astor Piazzolla and Horacio Ferrer.

If I am allowed I would use this expression, el Polaco had the capacity of making classic tangos his own.

Why do I say this? For the simple reason of his having refurbished innumerable tangos whose original versions had first and last name —they were identified with other singers— but which after his interpretation became emblematic of his repertory.

Such are the cases of “La última curda” (Edmundo Rivero), “Naranjo en flor” (Floreal Ruiz), “Qué solo estoy” (Raúl Berón), “Gricel” and “Garúa” (Francisco Fiorentino), among others.

He was also a great interpreter of Carlos Gardel´s repertory. His renditions of “Lejana tierra mía”, “Siga el corso”, “Volvió una noche”, “Intimas” and “Pompas de jabón” are remarkable.

He sang better than anyone the Homero Expósito´s tangos “Afiches”, “Maquillaje” and “Chau no va más” and re-launched to an incredible dimension “Naranjo en flor”.

It turns out impressive his version of “Malena” and touching his recording of the tango “Discepolín”, milestones in Homero Manzi´s poetry.

As for Enrique Santos Discépolo he made truly re-creations of “Soy un arlequín” and “Cafetín de Buenos Aires”.

His proposal of Cátulo Castillo´s “María” suggests an infinite sweetness, but we cannot ignore that he is the absolute master of “La última curda” where his voice makes obvious the deep dramatism of these verses which express Cátulo´s existencialist stage.

As for “Pompas de jabón” and “Intimas”, after Gardel´s, his are the best renditions.

And what to say about “Garúa”, “Gricel”, “”, “Cuando tallan los recuerdos”, “Ya vuelvo” and so many other unforgettable tunes.

He was admirer and close friend of Aníbal Troilo´s, as singer in his orchestra he recorded 26 numbers, and some years later, then as soloist, they teamed up again for two LPs, titled El Polaco y yo and ¿Te acordás Polaco?.

His ascending career continued under the conduction of the greatest maestros of his time, Armando Pontier, Raúl Garello, Atilio Stampone, Baffa-Berlingieri and many others.

He was consecrated as soloist after shining as orchestra singer and, curiously, the fervent recognition and public devotion would arrive when his voice reached maturity, not to forsake him until his death.

I had the luck to see him at live performances many times, at different venues in Buenos Aires.

But today I recall, the magic night adventures as a University student, around 1970. For the first time I listened to «el Polaco» singing tangos «a capella» at the Amazonas Bar room —placed on the corner of Marcelo T. de Alvear and Talcahuano streets— in one of the several escapes he used to do during the intermissions of his performances at Caño 14 —mythical venue of the Buenos Aires night— which was round the corner.

Very much later I had the pleasure to meet him, of talking to him and even, to appear on a video chatting with him at a café table and he was humming “Mariposita” for me.

He was great among the greats, and holding Gardel´s hand and those of his «brothers» Ignacio Corsini, Charlo, Francisco Fiorentino and Ángel Vargas, his voice, his «garganta con arena» (throat with sand), will go on giving pleasure with the tango taste and the daily perfume of Buenos Aires nights.