In his prime he looked like current heartthrob Harry Connick, Jr. – but with gyrating hips and sultry eyes that women found sexier than even those of Elvis Presley.
Whilst his romantic ballads and classic 60s-style rock and roll drew frequent comparisons with his North American counterpart, for his Latino fans, Sandro was an original.
Born Roberto Sánchez on 19th April 1945 in Buenos Aires, Sandro demonstrated obvious talent from an early age. After being expelled from his first year of high school, he joined a band called the ‘Trio Azul’, which, over the next few years, lost members, gained members, changed names and eventually evolved into a new group called ‘Los de Fuego’.
Sandro, also known as “El Gitano” (“the Gypsy”), was originally a guitar player. But one night, when the lead singer lost his voice mid-performance, Sandro took over the microphone and let loose. The crowd went crazy, and within a short time he’d become the band’s front man, adopted the name “Sandro”, and begun attracting fans in a way that Argentina had never seen before.
The band found a unique way to give well-known English songs a Latin twist so that Spanish-speakers could sing along to versions of songs by the Beatles, the Animals, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Little Richard and Tom Jones.
‘Los de Fuego’ recorded several albums and Sandro began appearing in a popular television series called ‘Los Sábados de Nicolás Pipo Mancera’. His wild gyrations on camera almost caused the show to be censored, but young people adored him for his onstage antics and tango performers of the era looked on in horror.
In 1966 Sandro turned solo and took on a more melodic and romantic repertory. It was from this point onwards that he found true stardom, releasing dozens of records, acting in 16 films, and in 1970, becoming the first Latin American singer to perform in New York City, playing to an audience of 250,000 fans at Madison Square Garden.
“What attracted people the most about Sandro, was his enigmatic personality, his raised eyebrow, his trembling lips, and above all, the mysteriousness that surrounded him”, said Argentine blues, rock and soul singer Patricia Sosa in 1993.
The album ‘La Magia de Sandro’, which came out in 1968, was Sandro’s eighth release and probably his most successful. A year later he starred in his first movie, ‘Quiero Llenarme de Ti’, named after one of his hit songs ‘I want to fill myself with you’.
In 1972 Sandro became the first singer to perform in Buenos Aires’ Luna Park venue. Almost ten years later he travelled to Venezuela, where his famous song ‘Cuando te Amo’ was being used as the theme song of a popular soap opera ‘De Su Misma Sangre’. The show grew to be hugely successful in Latin America and among Latin communities in the United States, and his fame was boosted further when in 1990, the channel 13 show ‘Querido Sandro’ won the Martín Fierro award for the best music program on television.
In the mid-90s rumours began circulating about his health. Having started smoking at the age of 10 and eventually smoking up to 60 cigarettes a day, his habit had caused him to develop chronic lung disease, and by 2001 he was forced to play shows with the assistance of a tube attached to a microphone.
Despite undergoing a heart and lung transplant in Mendoza in 2009, Sandro passed away several months later, on 4th January 2010, at the age of 64.
His magnetic style and romantic legacy make sure his name will not soon be forgotten.
Genre: Rock, romantic ballad, Latin pop
Dates active: 1960 to 2007
In their own words: “I may lose my life, but I won’t lose living it.”
Most famous song: ’Rosa Rosa’
Best lyric: “I want to float in every kiss in the clouds, and think about you in your lovely youth. Then I want to paint you in the light of a rainbow, and make a painting of love and gratitude.”
Famous for: Being Latin America’s answer to Elvis Presley
Best to listen to: When you’re open to seduction by a charismatic Latin lover.