There is happy music to help you dance and celebrate, but there is also sad music for when you need a good cry. If you were to make a list of the most tear-jerking songs in the history of Latin music, “Era en Abril” (“It Was in April”) would have to rank very near the top. It paints a simple picture: that of a couple in the immediate aftermath of the stillbirth of their son. The bereaved father and mother unload their feelings, urged on by a wistful melody in which flute and acoustic guitar dominate. The song was hailed as a classic since its initial release in 1982, and for good reason. There’s something almost magical about it, especially the gorgeous, heart-wrenching refrain: “Inside the belly/ a flowering field/ was his bed/ and the bellybutton was the Sun.”
“Era en Abril” may be the standout of the many wonderful songs produced since the 1980s by a collaborative group of musicians from Rosario, Argentina, whose most famous member is the Argentine rock superstar Fito Páez. Páez wrote several of the songs for Juan Carlos Baglietto’s debut album Tiempos Difíciles, as did Rubén Goldín and Jorge Fandermole, the author of “Era en Abril”. In the iconic original version Silvina Garré sings the female part alongside Baglietto. A more recent version Baglietto recorded with the Spanish star Ana Belén in 2009, featuring a more dynamic piano and electric guitar arrangement, is also excellent.
Despite its enduring popularity, the song has a very strange structure. It seemingly begins as a monologue. “You know brother, how sad I am?,” a man seemingly asks of his friend at the start. “My son is dead. My son! My son! My son, brother”. But then the female voice comes in: “What will my sweetness and I do now, with two breasts full of milk and pain?” So, are both the man and woman speaking to the friend? Where is this conversation happening? Soon enough “brother” is forgotten, mentioned only once (by the woman), later on. At the end the couple speaks to each other: “would it be better if the three of us left, and the two of us returned?” Were they speaking to themselves all along?
But this is a small quibble. Even among Baglietto’s repertoire of melancholy, rainy-day tunes, which includes “La Vida es Una Moneda” (“Life Is a Coin”) and “El Loco en la Calesita” (“The Madman on the Carousel”), “Era en Abril” stands out for its beauty and the power of its earnest, piercing pathos.