On the 40th anniversary of his seminal album Clics Modernos, Charly García was immortalized on the NYC street corner where its famous cover photo was taken. A plaque was placed at Walker Street and Cortlandt Alley, in Lower Manhattan, on Monday at 11 a.m. to commemorate the spot.
While García was unable to attend, his sister Roxana was there for the occasion and pulled the string alongside Argentine cultural representatives to reveal the new “Charly García Corner” plaque.
“It’s an honor to be here representing my brother. I want to tell you that he’s watching us and sends us an enormous hug. This is a dream for him — we spoke earlier and he was so excited,” she said. “Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who loves his music and loves him. This is a celebration.”
The street art behind García in the photo was later destroyed during the construction of a hotel. For Monday’s unveiling, it returned in the form of a large poster hanging below the new plaque and street sign.
As the Argentine Ambassador to the United States Jorge Argüello was presented with the official mayoral proclamation, the crowd started chanting “Olé olé olé olé, Charly, Charly!”
García, now 71, is the defining Argentine rock act of the 20th century. His music, a unique fusion of pop, rock, tango, folk and psychedelic music carried potent political metaphors and delivered instant classics for several Argentine generations.
He started his career in Buenos Aires, forming the band Sui Generis in high school with Carlos “Nito” Alberto Mestre. The band was acclaimed among critics and the public for its folk-rock sound and singable lyrics.
Not satisfied with a simple sound and message, García was determined to push the band in a more experimental direction. Pequeñas anécdotas sobre las instituciones, which discusses the unstable nature of Argentine institutions at the time, was scheduled for release in 1974 — but songs criticizing the military created conflicts among the band and producers. Their final two performances at Luna Park in Buenos Aires broke attendance records at the time, with each night selling over 25,000 tickets.
García’s early career was defined by poetic metaphors and threats of censorship. His second group, La Máquina de Hacer Pájaros, released two albums during 1978-79, amid some of the dictatorship’s worst repression. Their second album, originally entitled with the provocative Qué se puede hacer salvo ver películas (What Can You Do Apart From Watching Films) was released simply as Películas.
In 1979, he was threatened with imprisonment over the first album he released with his new supergroup Serú Girán. The government also directly censored one of their songs, “Viernes 3 a.m.” because it allegedly encouraged suicide. Their next project, Bicicleta, continued to chronicle the sentiments of Argentines with “Cancion de Alicia en el país” utilizing the Alice in Wonderland story to construct an elaborate metaphor while avoiding censorship.
Garcia made his trip to NYC in 1983 to record his second solo project with another change in mind: a break from his old style, embracing the New Wave pop sound and transitioning away from prog-rock. As he walked with photographer Uberto Sagramoso, he was mesmerized by a simple street art of a black silhouette drawn by Canadian Richard Hambleton with the words “Modern Clix.”
Upon his return to Buenos Aires, the white silhouettes drawn on walls and sidewalks by the mothers of Plaza de Mayo to commemorate people forcefully disappeared by the genocidal dictatorship inspired a connection. The album was originally to be titled after one of the songs on the album, “Nuevos Trapos”, but was renamed Clics Modernos. It would become one of the greatest Argentine rock albums of all time, with its danceable sound and politically significant lyrics. Songs like “Nos siguen pegando abajo” and “Los dinosaurios” directly addressed the kidnappings and murders perpetrated by the dictatorship.
In 1984, after the end of the dictatorship, García released his popular album Piano Bar. García continued to compose classics over the next 20 years, ingratiating himself with a new generation for his ability to tap into collective sentiments both in dictatorship and democracy. He released 12 albums during the 1990s and 2000s, including a wildly popular MTV Unplugged that covers many of his most renowned songs, showcasing his powerful voice in a more intimate setting.
He is renowned for his collaboration, working with famous Latin American musicians, photographers, and artists including Gustavo Cerati, Pedro Aznar, Mercedes Sosa, and Sandro.
Garcia continues to release new music, often collections of previously unreleased material. He is still an influential figure in the music scene with songs such as “Hablando a tu corazón” being remixed at a club in Ibiza, proving his ability to stand the tests of time.
-with information from Télam