Oscar Del Priore
| Irene Amuchástegui

Vida mía - The union details concerning “Vida mía”

romantic tango song, right in the Osvaldo Fresedo’s style, so much so that it is the most popular of the ones written by its composer. He premiered it in 1933 and was sung by his vocalist Roberto Ray for the first time. Nearly all the singers that joined the Fresedo orchestra sang “Vida mía”. It was a tango inevitable in the songbook of the renowned leader. Those that succeeded in committing it to record were three: Roberto Ray, the first one, in 1933; Oscar Serpa, in 1944; Héctor Pacheco, in 1952. Fresedo also cut two special recordings accompanying well-known foreign singers: Tito Schipa in 1934 and Pedro Vargas in 1945. There is also a live recording —in 1956 at the boite Rendez Vous— in which the jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie improvises while the Fresedo orchestra, without vocalist, plays “Vida mía”.

Carlos Gardel was very close to singing “Vida mía”. In the 30s lyricists and composers had split up in Buenos Aires. There were two societies that attributed themselves the right of representing and collect royalties and that gave rise to quarrelsome situations. It happened on occasions that the users of the music many times did not know whom to pay and then they didn’t or only paid the one who arrived first. Finally, both associations would merge to favor the birth of SADAIC.

But at the time of the conflict it was, on one side, the Asociación de Autores y Compositores de Música, which was lined up, among others, by Osvaldo and Emilio Fresedo, Juan Carlos Cobián, Modesto Papávero, Alfredo Eusebio Gobbi and Alfredo Pelaia. On the opposite side was the Círculo Argentino de Autores y Compositores de Música which reunited a much powerful team which included Francisco Canaro, Francisco Lomuto, Gerardo Matos Rodríguez, Anselmo Aieta, Lito Bayardo, Cátulo Castillo, Charlo, Julio De Caro, Enrique Santos Discepolo, Celedonio Flores, Agustín Bardi, Manuel Romero, José Razzano, Pedro Laurenz, Rodolfo Sciammarella and many more.

In 1934 Osvaldo Fresedo was the president of the Asociación, and in such position he traveled to the United States with the object of reaching an agreement with the American society ASCAP. In 1932 Fresedo had appeared with a large orchestra at the Cine Ástor playing what was called symphonic tango. With that experience, and in order to please the ASCAP officials, he offered a free broadcast of tangos for a radio station in New York. The American members of the board gladly accepted his offer and asked him what he needed. Then Osvaldo requested a symphony orchestra and two singers, a man and a woman. All this had a political purpose: Fresedo thought that after the performance he would get for the Association he presided the contract to be ASCAP’s agent. However, it wasn’t so... Because of Gardel.

ASCAP asked the Zorzal Criollo —who then was in the United States— to sing with the big symphony orchestra conducted by Fresedo that would include 56 players. Two days later Fresedo got a call by Alfredo Le Pera who sent him Gardel’s best wishes and informed him that due to previous engagements it was impossible for the singer to appear at that broadcast. Because of that the singer Pancho Spaventa sang “Vida mía” and other tangos with the orchestra fronted by Osvaldo Fresedo.

There is no hint to suspect that Le Pera was lying because Gardel’s schedule in New York was awfully busy. The concert was held without him and, according to chronicles of that time, was magnificent. But when Fresedo tried to reach an agreement with ASCAP he came to know that the contract had been signed by the rival entity, the Círculo, because Gardel had interceded for them after Canaro’s request.

Another much later story links Gardel with “Vida mía”. The latter tango and not “Por una cabeza” had been chosen for the movie Perfume de mujer (directed in 1992 by Martin Brest). When the producers asked SADAIC an authorization to use the Fresedo’s tango they regarded the fees established by the composer’s heirs as too high. So they chose Gardel’s tango instead because its copyright was now under public domain since 50 years had passed after the singer’s and Le Pera’s death.

Besides the renditions of “Vida mía” by Fresedo it is worthwhile to mention the ones made by Horacio Salgán without singer: with the Quinteto Real and with the Salgán-De Lío duo.