Por una Cabeza

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Por una Cabeza

"Por una Cabeza" is a tango song with music and lyrics written in 1935 by Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera respectively.[1]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

The name is a Spanish horse-racing phrase meaning "by a head", which refers to a horse winning a race by the length of one head. The lyrics speak of a compulsive horse-track gambler who compares his addiction for horses with his attraction to women.

Alfredo Le Pera was an Argentine, born in Brazil, son of immigrant italians. Le Pera and Gardel died in an airplane crash in Medellín, (Colombia), on June 24, 1935.

The starting phrase in the B section may be inspired by Mozart's Rondo for violin and orchestra in C major, K. 373.[2][3][4]

The song was originally composed in A major.[5] It was thereafter adapted to the violin and the piano sometimes in A major[6] · ,[7] sometimes in G major[8] · .[9]

Uses in popular culture[edit]

The tango has since been performed by numerous tango orchestras.


Tango scenes with "Por una Cabeza" appear in some of the following films or the song is mentioned.

  • Scent of a Woman (1992) – The tango is performed by the "The Tango Project", consisting of William Schimmel (accordion), Michael Sahl (piano) and Stan Kurtis (violin), who actually appear in the dancing scene starring Al Pacino (the recording used is available on one of their CD albums).
  • Schindler's List (1993) – It plays well to the subtext of the film's protagonist's "addiction" to women
  • True Lies (1994)
  • Frida (Salma Hayek, 2002) – Gardel is heard singing it on a radio
  • Bad Santa (Uncut Version, 2003)
  • All the King's Men (2006)
  • Easy Virtue (2008 film) Colin Firth and Jessica Biel dancing a sensuous tango
  • Planet 51 (2009)



  • David Del Tredici's "Good News! Nilda is Back" (from the song cycle Miz Inez Sez) – quoted
  • John Williams arranged a version of the piece that appears on the album "Cinema Serenade" with the violin solo performed by Itzhak Perlman
  • Perlman and Williams (conducting) have performed the piece together in live concerts
  • In 2012 a dance version was released by the group "Da Carrera" featuring the original vocal recording by Carlos Gardel


External links[edit]