Julio Sosa

Real name: Sosa Venturini, Julio María
Nicknames: El Varón del Tango
Singer and poet
(2 February 1926 - 26 November 1964)
Place of birth:
Las Piedras (Canelones) Uruguay
Roberto Selles

ndoubtedly, Julio Sosa was the last tango singer who attracted crowds. And in that, very little mattered that nearly half of his repertoire was identical to that of Carlos Gardel’s, although it was also true that he interpreted some contemporary numbers. As the researcher Maximiliano Palombo says, «he was one of the most important voices that tango had in the second half of the 50s and early 60s, a period when the music was not enjoying a very happy time».

Afterwards, due to his early death, it was attempted with him a repetition of Gardel’s myth, but Sosa was not Gardel, the extroversion and the lack of tenderness of his voice drew him apart of the paradigm of the tango singer. On the other hand, when his image was lost, his acting capacities disappeared, so linked to the meaning of what he sang.

Anyway, his memory remained, especially in the generation that saw him sprout out and in those that came later, as one of the most recognizable and impossible to ignore figures in the history of tango.

Under the name Julio María Sosa Venturini, he was born in the locality of Las Piedras, department of Canelones, Uruguay, on 2 February 1926, to the married couple formed by Luciano Sosa, a rural laborer, and Ana María Venturini, a washer-woman.

As soon as he finished elementary school, poverty drove him to face life with any stint at hand. So, he carried out the most varied occupations: peddler’s assistant, itinerant biscuit vendor, municipal pruner, wagon washer, drugstore distributor, second class sailor in the Naval aviation...

But other were his ambitions. And after those ambitions, he applied for any available contest for singers. Also love appeared, and it led him to the altar being only sixteen years old; two years later, he broke up with that girl, called Aída Acosta.

By then, he started professionally in the city of La Paz Uruguay) as vocalist in Carlos Gilardoni’s orchestra. He later moved to Montevideo to sing with Hugo Di Carlo, Epifanio Chaín, Edelmiro D'Amario —Toto— and Luis Caruso orchestras. With the latter, he was able to record and waxed five renditions for the Sondor label in 1948.

In June the following year, he was in Buenos Aires singing at cafés, like Los Andes, at the corner of Jorge Newbery and Córdoba streets. He also «gave a trial performance —Palombo points out— with the orquesta típica of Joaquín Do Reyes, but the leader thought Sosa’s voice was somewhat harsh for the interpretative style of his ensemble».

In August, he was discovered by the lyricist Raúl Hormaza, who did not hesitate in introducing him to Enrique Mario Francini and Armando Pontier, who were likely to add a new singer to the one they already had in their orchestra, Alberto Podestá. From twenty pesos a night that he was paid at the café, he switched to one thousand two hundred a month with Francini-Pontier.

In April 1953 he switched to the típica (orchestra) of Francisco Rotundo, with which he recorded for Odeon, and out of those numbers, authentic creations are still remembered, such as “Justo el treinta y uno”, “Bien bohemio” and “Mala suerte”.

In June 1955 he joined the Armando Pontier orchestra and cut his recordings in Victor and Columbia. “La gayola”, “Quién hubiera dicho”, “Padrino pelao”, “Martingala”, “Abuelito”, “Camouflage”, “Enfundá la mandolina”, “Tengo miedo”, “Cambalache”, “Brindis de sangre” or “No te apures Carablanca” were some of his classics at that stage where success was already completely by his side.

In 1958, he married again, with Nora Edith Ulfed, with whom he had a daughter, Ana María. Already separated, he tried again, with Susana Beba Merighi, his partner until his final day.

In 1960 he revealed his other artistic aspect, that of poet, with the release of his sole book, Dos horas antes del alba. He also ventured on tango lyrics with a sample Seis años, with music by Edelmiro D'Amario.

In the early 1960, he split with Pontier having decided to start his stage as soloist. He requested, then, the bandoneonist Leopoldo Federico to organize his accompanying orchestra. With it he began to record for the same label he had recorded with Pontier, Columbia, in 1961, when he was already established into the popular preference.

The journalist Ricardo Gaspari, head of the press department of the recording company, nicknamed him El Varón del Tango and he titled his first LP in like manner. Everything seemed to work all right. There was only a drawback, facing the powerful boom of the so- called «Nueva Ola» (new wave), the fashionable show business with which they were cutting our cultural roots in the young people of that time. In spite of the risk that it seemed to represent, Sosa achieved a records sale unforeseeable for a tango interpreter in those days and so bulging as that of any «nuevaolero» singer.

That confrontation with the «Nueva Ola» was represented to perfection on the scene he played for the film Buenas noches, Buenos Aires (1964), where with Beba Bidart he sang and danced “El firulete”, in front of some young «twisters» who finally switched to the cortes and quebradas.

Reality was not far away; Sosa succeeded in driving back many disoriented youths to the music they belonged to. That is why those who then were young have forgotten the «nuevaolera» (new-wave) foolish lyrics and keep on listening to the singer of Las Piedras.

Apart from tango and poetry, Sosa had another passion: automobiles. He was owner of an Isetta, a De Carlo 700 and a DKW Fissore model; with the three of them he collided, due to his unlimited inclination for breakneck speed. The third proved fatal. At dawn on November 25, 1964 he crashed into a light beacon at the corner of Figueroa Alcorta avenue and Mariscal Castilla street (Buenos Aires).

He was put into the Hospital Fernández and later taken to the Anchorena hospital, where he passed away on the 26th at 9:30. A wake over his remains began to be held in the Salón La Argentina but the great number of public forced them to move the vigils at the Luna Park (legendary boxing stadium with a capacity for 25.000 people). On the 24 he had sung his last tango on the radio, “La gayola” (the jail). The end seemed prophetical «pa' que no me falten flores cuando esté dentro 'el cajón» (so I won’t miss flowers when I’m inside the coffin).

Originally published in the fascicle 39 of the colection Tango Nuestro issued by Diario Popular.