By Julio Nudler
Manzi has given, like no one else, poetry to tango lyrics. He was a poet who never published a book of poems. His poetry was evidenced only through songs, from country themes to urban music, the latter where he would be at his best. In this way he became immensely popular without giving up his poet feelings. He resorted to metaphors, even surrealist, but never so much as to prevent ordinary people from fully understanding his message. He never used lunfardo (Buenos Aires slang or argot) in his literary pieces, although his work was very much addressed to a popular audience. Unlike other great authors, his lyrics are not chronicles of the social reality nor do they convey moral messages. Longing and nostalgia are often present in his verses as in tango itself. Through them, Manzi depicts people and things with tenderness and sympathy. The poor -suburban- neighborhood is his great stage. His tango “Sur”, 1948, with music written by the bandoneon player Anibal Troilo, possibly the most superb work in the genre in that glamorous decade, summarizes the essence of his work.
Homero Nicolás Manzione, as he was truly named, was born to an Uruguayan mother and Argentine father (as tango itself) in Añatuya, a railway junction in the Province of Santiago del Estero, a virtually desert province in the North East region of Argentina. There his father tried to make a living as a modest farm owner. At the age of 7, Homero had already moved to Buenos Aires to start his studies at Colegio Luppi, a school in the humble and distant Pompeya district. Each component in that landscape -from the long wall along which he walked on his way to school to the railway embankment, as if a magic combination of city and pampa- would be caught in his lyrics to come, such as those of “Barrio de tango” (1942) and “Sur”. Continue reading.