Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla (1921-1992) was born in Mar del Plata, Argentina, the only child of Italian immigrant parents.
In 1925 Astor Piazzolla moved with his family to Greenwich Village in New York City, which in those days was a violent neighbourhood inhabited by a volatile mixture of gangsters and hard-working immigrants. His parents worked long hours and Piazzolla soon learned to take care of himself on the streets despite having a limp. At home he would listen to his father's records of the tango orchestras of Carlos Gardel and Julio de Caro, and was exposed to jazz and classical music, including Bach, from an early age. He began to play the bandoneon after his father spotted one in a New York pawn shop in 1929. In 1934 he met Carlos Gardel, one of the most important figures in the history of tango, and played a cameo role as a paper boy in his movie El día que me quieras.
In 1936, he returned with his family to Mar del Plata, where he began to play in a variety of tango orchestras. In 1946 Piazzolla formed his Orquesta Típica, which gave him his first opportunity to experiment with his own approach to the orchestration and musical content of tango.
In 1992, American music critic Stephen Holden described Piazzolla as "the world's foremost composer of Tango music".