Por una Cabeza

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"Por una Cabeza"
LabelRCA Victor
Composer(s)Carlos Gardel
Lyricist(s)Alfredo Le Pera
Audio sample

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

Composition and lyrics[edit]

The name (pronounced [ˈpoɾ ˈuna kaˈβesa]) is a Spanish horse-racing phrase meaning "by a head", which refers to a horse winning a race narrowly - by just the length of its 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 born in Brazil, son of Italian immigrants. Le Pera and Gardel died in an aeroplane crash in Medellín, on Monday, June 24, 1935.[2]

The song was originally composed in A major.[3] It was thereafter adapted to the violin and the piano sometimes in A major,[4][5] sometimes in G major.[6][7]

Notable uses[edit]

"Por Una Cabeza" is featured in a famous tango scene in Martin Brest's film Scent of a Woman (1992), in the opening scene of Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993) and in James Cameron's True Lies (1994).[8][9][10][11]

An arrangement, without vocals, is performed by Nicola Benedetti on her 2012 album The Silver Violin.[12][13]

Lyrics in public domain[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Por una Cabeza". Todo Tango. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  2. ^ Clavell, M. (1996) (in Spanish), Biografía. In: Los Mejores Tangos de Carlos Gardel. Alfred Publ. Van Nuys, California.
  3. ^ YouTube, Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera - « Por una Cabeza » (in A major)
  4. ^ Wikisource, Scores of « Por una Cabeza » (in A major)
  5. ^ YouTube, Miguel Gragera - « Por Una Cabeza » (in A major)
  6. ^ YouTube, Carlos Gardel - « Por una cabeza » with score (in G major)
  7. ^ YouTube, « Por Una Cabeza » in True Lies (in G major)
  8. ^ Schickler, David (2013). The Dark Path. Riverhead Books. ISBN 978-1594486456. ...an instrumental recording of Por una Cabeza used in the films Scent of a Woman and True Lies. The original version of the song, a hit from the 1930s by Carlos Gardel and Alfredo La Pera...
  9. ^ Scaffidi, Susan (June 15, 2016). "All grown up: Youth symphony to lose a quarter of players after concert". Retrieved December 18, 2017. Hong, a violinist, will perform one of the most famous of tango melodies: “Por una Cabeza” by Carlos Gardel. The tango has been used in several films, most memorably in “Scent of a Woman” and “True Lies.”
  10. ^ Thompson, Robert (2005). Tango: The Art History of Love. Vintage Books. p. 24. ISBN 978-1400095797. Finally, in Steven Spielburg's Schindler's List (1993), Liam Neeson dances, once again, to "Por una cabeza."
  11. ^ "She Walks To The Dance Floor And Starts To Tango Like No One Else. This Is Just Delightful!". April 14, 2017. Retrieved June 2, 2018. Easy Virtue...beautifully edited to Carlos Gardel’s “Por una Cabeza.”
  12. ^ Edwards, Adrian (November 2012). "The Silver Violin. Benedetti in Bournemouth for silver-screen violin classics". Retrieved December 19, 2017. This new release from Nicola Benedetti offers a programme inspired by film music...The bonne bouche of the shorter pieces is Carlos Gardel’s tango Por una cabeza
  13. ^ Gill, Andy (August 24, 2012). "Album: Nicola Benedetti The Silver Violin (Decca)". The Independent. Retrieved December 19, 2017. Nicola Benedetti believes that film music is the primary contemporary conduit for classical or orchestral music...But the most interesting pieces are Gardel's playful tango from Scent of a Woman, "Por Una Cabeza"

External links[edit]