Roberto Ray

Real name: Raimondo, Roberto
Singer and lyricist
(21 December 1912 - 23 September 1960)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Gaspar Astarita

n the late twenties the inclusion of a singer in the tango orchestras begins to be important. The estribillistas (refrain singers) —so called because at that time they only sang the refrain of the piece— are those who first begin to achieve outstanding places in the orchestra advertisements.

Little by little, and because of the public preference they were achieving and the appearance of a great number of tangos with lyrics, radios, recording companies, and contests, that refrain singer —now turned into an orchestra vocalist, because he is given the chance to interpret nearly the whole lyric—, is strengthened as an outstanding element in the group.

In the late thirties and in the forties, that role would reach its highest peak, while at the same time the tangos with lyrics would find its period of greatest splendor.

In a great number of outfits there sprang up voices that fully identified themselves with the style and the intentions of the leader, helping to create a definitive interpretative personality in each case: Francisco Fiorentino with Aníbal Troilo, Ángel Vargas with Ángel D'Agostino, Alberto Echagüe with Juan D'Arienzo, Ernesto Famá with Francisco Canaro, Juan Carlos Miranda with Lucio Demare, Raúl Berón with Miguel Caló —just to name some associations—, they became closely linked to the success of each of those orchestras and they were mainly responsible for their permanence in the memory and love of people.

In those happy alliances there was a reciprocal and lucky synchronization of sensitivity and intentions to develop each subject, so that their interpretations have remained as true models of artistic affinity in the history of tango.

And in the list of those associations that reached a perfect balance as for accentuations, divisions, ways, temper and nuances to express tango, one that has achieved archetypal rank is the one that the voice of Roberto Ray and the Osvaldo Fresedo orchestra formed. All the expressive finesse of that outfit would not find a better vocal response than Ray´s. This young man was born in the city of Buenos Aires, in the neighborhood of San Cristóbal, and was to die, when he was still young, in the same city, his true name was Roberto Raimondo.

And this statement does not pretend to make qualitative comparisons with the other vocalists who worked for the composer of “Vida mía”, but it aims at pointing out that when he joined Fresedo´s group in 1931, Roberto Ray was the first to establish the standards of style for the singers in the orchestra —diction, timbre, repertory, finesse and emphasis deprived of the impudence of an outskirter—, that would be later the Fresedian constant vocal feature in all the singers that after Ray passed through the ranks of that orchestra.

Roberto Ray´s singing established a style of high quality in the vocal interpretation of tango. Listening to his recordings with Fresedo —he started in 1931 in the Brunswick label, continued in Victor from 1933 to 1939, when he split for a passing experience as leader in the team Rizzuti-Ray, returning to Fresedo in 1948— is evidenced, right from the start, a slight but unequivocal similitude with Ignacio Corsini´s voice.

Tenor of a somewhat high range, of a marked nasal emission but highly expressive, of distinguished diction, he was showcased recreating the impeccable repertoire of his leader, in whose orchestra he produced true gems of interpretation: “Sollozos”, “Aromas”, “Vida mía”, “Niebla del Riachuelo”, “Como aquella princesa”, “Recuerdos de bohemia”, they are, in an abridged summary, an example of all the artistry that the team Fresedo-Ray introduced to the history of tango.

An example that does not look down on the other singers of the outfit, but which indicates the adoption of a refined and unmistakable style. Because Roberto Ray, undoubtedly, labeled «the voice for Fresedo».

Published in the Tango y Lunfardo magazine No. 33, Chivilcoy, 17 January 1988.