Farewell to Horacio Ferrer

Post date: Dec 31, 2014 1:38:40 AM

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This is a tribute to the Uruguayan-born lyricist, broadcaster and reciter Horacio Ferrer, who died on December 21 in Buenos Aires from heart complications. He was 81.

“Tango is so attractive to poets because tango is entirely poetic in itself. The music is poetic, the dance is poetic, the singing is poetic, and the world from which the tango evolves is poetic: it’s the world of the night, it’s the bohemian world where money has little importance, and to be sure where love has a great deal of importance, triumphant love or destroyed love, the affections, distant affection, a love of looking back through space and time,” (Horacio Ferrer)

Ferrer rose to fame as Astor Piazzolla’s lyricist and longtime collaborator. He was particularly well known for the lyrics he wrote for Piazzolla’s tangos such as Chiquilín de Bachín and Balada Para un Loco. The latter is my personal favourite and you can read more about and listen to it here.

Ferrer was born on 2 June 1933 in Montevideo, Uruguay into an educated family. His father was a history professor.  His mother Alicia Escurra Francini (who was 11 years older than his father) spoke four languages. She was the great grandniece of 19th-century Argentine ruler Juan Manuel de Rosas. Ferrer had a close relationship with his brother, Eduardo, to whom he dedicated several of his lyrics.

Growing up in a home impregnated with art, it is not surprising that from his early childhood Ferrer was already writing poems, little shows, and plays. Later on he would write lyrics for milongas which he would sing to friends, while playing the guitar, in the cellar of a grocery store.

An uncle living in Buenos Aires, who Ferrer frequently visited with his parents, taught him to play tangos on guitar by ear. It was that same uncle who would introduce him to the nightlife of Buenos Aires night with its gallery of bohemian characters.  

Ferrer studied architecture and engineering for eight years but never graduated. After quitting his architectural studies he worked as editor for a Montevidean newspaper. Ferrer was also involved in producing the weekly radio programme Seleccion de Tangos in Montevideo which aimed to promote new developments in tango. 

Out of the programme grew El Club de la Guardia Nueva which he founded in Buenos Aires in 1954 to organise concerts in Montevideo for those musicians who were helping to revolutionise tango, such as Horacio Salgan, Aníbal Troilo, and particularly Astor Piazzolla and his famous Octeto Buenos Aires.

It was when Anibal Troilo personally requested Ferrer to write the lyrics for Piazzolla's song La Ultima Grela that his career as a tango lyricist really took off. Ferrer ended up writing the lyrics for over 200 songs. He collaborated with renowned tango musicians including Horacio Salgan and Anibal Troilo, but hia most prolific work was with Astor Piazzolla.

In addition to his work as a tango lyricist, newspaper editor and radio broadcaster, Ferrer was the President of the National Academy of Tango since its foundation in 1990. He also authored several books about tango, including Arte Popular de Buenos Aires (The Book of Tango. Popular Art of Buenos Aires) and El Libro del Tango.

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You may enjoy a related post: Balada Para Un Loco