User-agent: * Allow: / Trenton Butcher Block: How to Disturb the Neighbors

"Our Liberties We Prize, Our Rights We Will Defend."

Commentary on national and local events from the standpoint of a Trenton city resident and state worker.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

How to Disturb the Neighbors

Libertad Lamarque was a famous Argentine singer and actress.  She got her start in the 1920s making tango records.  Her long career was almost as much the result as her ability to adapt to adverse circumstances as her talent.  For example, she learned how to sing tango because she was unable to secure work in opera as a soprano.  After slapping the future wife of Juan Peron, Eva Duarte (A.K.A. Evita) in the face while working on a movie, she was blacklisted in Argentina.  At the time, both women were in love with Mr. Peron, who was then a cabinet minister.  After Eva used her influence, Ms. Lamarque was unable to get work in Argentina so she moved to Mexico where she became even more famous.  At the time of her death in 2000 at the age of 92 she was still working, playing the role as a mother superior nun on a Mexican soap opera.  She recorded over 400 songs during her career, making her one of the most prolific recording artists of all time.
 The Princeton Record Exchange is a wonderful little store located across from the university campus on Tulane Street in Princeton.  This store sells a wide variety of new and used CDs, videos and vinyl records.  It is a throwback to the past.  Similar stores cannot be found elsewhere in the area outside of New York City or Philadelphia.

Several years ago after seeing my family doctor I went to Starbucks then to the Princeton Record Exchange to see what I could find for cheap.  I picked up a CD of some of Libertad Lamarque's early hits.  Prior to this time, I never heard of her.  To put it mildly, her early tango music was unique.  The CD included songs like La Chica de 17 and Negra Maria.  When she sang tango, she used her voice as a precussion instrument and carried the beat of the music rather than simply singing out the melody.

I liked the CD so much I went online and ordered some more of her music.  I found out she kept on making records right into the 1970s at least.  She did a variety of popular music as well as tango including Cielito Lindo among other things.  Some of this music is familiar to us in the USA, although it is normally played here without words.  It was good to hear the words that go with these songs.

Her resume also includes many movies as well as soap operas.  Here is the article about her on Wikipedia  Here is another biography on the English section of a Spanish-language website about tango.
As Billy Joel once said, "You can't get the latest sound from a story in a magazine."   And of course, you can't appreciate this talented lady by reading a Wiki article either.  So here are some links to her singing and performing in movies: and  also see where Libertad (the brunete) gets to show the blonde lady with the bad singing voice how tango is done.

Tango originated in the bordillos of Buenos Aires, and Libertad Lamarque is a little too refined to be an "authentic" female tango singer.  After all, she came from a relatively affulent background and got the benefit of training in the performing arts.  For someone a little more whorish, check out Tita Merello here .  I can gurantee that something this sexy back in the era it was made would never pass the US Motion Picture Code.  OK, it's PG, but that's about as strong as it got in the 1930s.  Here is Tita Merello's most famous hit, Se Dice de Mi, which is a humorous song about an ugly tramp.  In the Spanish-speaking world today, this song is strongly associated with the television character Ugly Betty, who is known south of the border as Betty la Fea.

Tita Merello lived and worked around the same time as Libertad Lamarque. She was born in 1904 and died in 2002. She worked in legitimate show business from the early 1930s until 1995.  Here is a good biography I found on her.  The Wikipedia biography lacks detail, so I went with this one .  Like Lamarque, Merello had a long career as a singer and actress.  She also danced.  Unlike Lamarque, Merello grew up a street waif and worked for a time as a prostitute and got her start in show business as a chorus girl at a seedy bar where the sailors hung around to pick up working girls.  She got noticed and moved up to legitimate singing and acting roles.  She had no formal training in the performing arts and basically portrayed women that were like herself before she became famous.

There is a lesson to be learned here.  Cream rises to the top, the weak fall by the wayside.  Use what you got, work hard and don't give up and you will feed your face.  Go through life with your hand out looking to mooch off freebees and you will become the bum you aspire to be.

So disturb the neighbors by blasting some old latin music.

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