Equally famous for his love as his songs about love, one of the country’s most famous tango artists leaves behind a complicated legacy.
The beloved Argentine singersongwriter Cacho Castaña, best known for his crooning voice and sultry love songs, died last Tuesday.
At 77 years old, Castaña had long suffered from chronic respiratory issues and renal failure. Close friends and family had the opportunity to say goodbye after a recent weeks-long hospital stay involving complications with pneumonia.
“It’s very sad news, but he endured a great deal. His body suffered tremendously,” said Nacha Guevara, a fellow artist.
Castaña’s career began with 14 years as a tango group pianist. He later transformed himself into a standalone act, but remained true to his roots with a focus on romance and ballads. At the end of his career, he had created somewhere around 2,500 songs. vThe songs of Castaña, whose given name was Humberto Vicente Castagna, blended genres — his music was as easily played in a milonga as in a boliche — and incorporated poetry, his lyrics a direct expression of his infatuation with love itself.
“In some ways, his death is liberation. He was very strong, throwing himself fully into everything and achieving what seemed impossible. But it was evident his body was suffering too much. Now, he’s in peace,” added Guevara.
Castaña’s passion for romance led to the creation of iconic songs like “Para vivir un gran amor,” “Cafe la humedad” and “Garganta con arena,” it also led him into a series of scandals.
He had a long history of romances. His intense, highly sexualised and very public romance with Mónica Gonzaga, a sex symbol of her generation, broke off his then-present engagement. After the split, Castaña dated actress Silvia Peyrou. That relationship ended in scandal when Peyrou said she was pregnant with the singer’s son, a claim Castaña denied. Then, Argentina’s famed TV host Susana Gimenez had a brief affair with the singer during her own marriage.
In a generation dominated by machismo, Castaña’s lyrics didn’t shy away from his not-soromantic exploits. One 1975 lyric sang, “if you hold someone else, I will kill you. I will give you a beating and then escape.” It was a hit.
In 2018, despite the swell of Argentina’s feminism movement, Castaña’s views on women appeared unchanged, and his proclivity for behaviour sanctioned by machismo unwavering. During an interview on the local TV programme Involucrados, he once said women should “relax and enjoy themselves” if rape seems “inevitable,” sparking outrage.
Today, comments and lyrics like these have been the subject of intensified criticism and the cause for a dip in his once-loyal fandom.
Much of Castaña’s life was characterised by indulgence. “I’ve done everything you aren’t supposed to do in excess,” he said in 2005 when he finally gave up smoking three packs of cigarettes every day.
Even with his fragile health, Castaña performed at the Teatro Colón, one of Argentina’s most renowned music halls, in December 2016. Two years later, he opened a festival in Luna Park with fellow musician Ramón “Palito” Ortega.
It would be his last concert.