Joan Manuel Serrat: the Catalan who became a symbol of freedom for America

Joan Manuel Serrat is the most international Spanish singer-songwriter, author of “Mediterráneo”, the best pop song of all time, and many other songs that continue to play on the radio. At 77, he announced his retirement from the stage in 2022 to leave behind an artistic career that is engraved in the emotional memory of so many generations in Spain, America and other corners of the world.

More than 400 songs has composed Serrat In his 57-year career, which began in 1964, when he appeared on a Radio Barcelona program to interpret one of them. A year later he managed to record his first single album, with the first song composed by him, and whose title was a declaration of intent: “A guitar.”

The veteran author has always said that he writes songs to express himself and communicate: “Singing I share what I love and face what I hate, but actually I sing for the pleasure of singing, and that is a privilege.”

Serrat, the “noi del Poble Sec”, the neighborhood of Barcelona where he was born on December 27, 1943, reaches the stage of retirement from the stage, but his passion for song will never die.

He is the author of emblematic titles such as “Penelope”, “Paraules d’amor”, “Those little things”, “For freedom” or “Mediterranean”, the latter chosen as the best Spanish pop-rock song of all time by the “Rolling Stone” magazine.

He had then overcome the bladder cancer that was diagnosed in 2004, when he had to leave his umpteenth concert tour.

It was in 1965 that he managed to record his first single album, with the first song composed by him, and whose title was a declaration of intent: “A guitar.”

That same year he joined the artistic group “Els setze jutges”, a group of singers who defended his right to sing in Catalan.

“Apart from being a Catalan I exercise,” said Serrat, for whom “expressing oneself in Catalan is as natural as growing nails.” And this gave him some displeasure in the past, like his resignation to represent Spain at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1968 because his song “La, la, la” was originally written in Catalan; the Franco regime wanted it in Spanish, and finally the singer Massiel ended up winning the contest with the song in Spanish.

In his book “Algo personal”, reviews all the songs of his career, Serrat explains about his origins: “I was born at the end of 1943 in Barcelona to a Catalan father and Aragonese mother. I am what is known in Catalonia as a charnego, a mestizo who, in my case, did not inherit neither the prudence of the Catalan seny nor the Aragonese sturdiness, but that naturally was educated in the understanding of diversity and tolerance of the different “.

His father, Josep, was a “lampista” (plumber) and his mother, Ángeles, a seamstress, and the young Joan Manuel finished his studies as an Agricultural Expert with an Extraordinary Prize for his class, as mandated by the canons of those working-class families who wanted studies. for the children, although they also gave him the guitar.

After his frustrating experience in Eurovision, the Spanish-speaking public won over all, because Serrat lavished himself more in Spanish, as evidenced by his more than 30 albums published since then, although he had already gained a lot of recognition in Spain with his album “Ara que tinc vint anys “, from 1967.

A year later, in 1969, he released his first album in Spanish, “La paloma”, and also managed to win the IV World Song Festival in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) singing “Penelope”, which he composed together with the Spanish Augusto Algueró.

His song “Mediterraneo” which gave the title to one of his most popular albums was released in 1971.

By then, Serrat had become a symbol of freedom both in Spain and in Latin America.

Due to statements he made in Mexico in 1975, contrary to the death sentences of September of the same year, he remained in exile for 11 months and was expelled from the Show Union. He returned to Spain on August 20, 1976 and reappeared on Spanish stages in October.

In 1981 he published “El Transit”, with which he managed to reach the top of the Spanish charts.

In 1983 he published another of his most popular albums, “Cada loco con su tema”, with which he toured Latin America, except Chile, since it was censored by Pinochet.

Among the innumerable awards with which he has been distinguished, there are two honorary doctorates by the University of Morelos (Mexico), in 2003 and, more recently, by the Complutense University of Madrid, which valued his “contribution to the dissemination of Spanish and Latin American poetry, his work in favor of the coexistence of the Castilian and Catalan languages, his promotion and development of auteur music and his great social and cultural influence “.

Downplaying so much praise, the singer-songwriter said that “a man who is paid to do what he likes more than a merit what he has is a blessing.”

Serrat vindicates “justice and freedom, because they feed life”, and also “the realism of dreaming in a future where life is better and relationships are more just and positive, and always in peace.”

“I really enjoy something as simple as affection and if something is worth living and making songs for is to love and be loved,” he concluded.

In that of love Serrat has always felt very lucky, that in 1977 he married Candela Tiffón from Barcelona, ​​with whom he has had two daughters: María (born in December 1979) and Candela (born in November 1986).

Serrat also has a son, Queco (born in Madrid in May 1969), from his previous relationship with model Mercedes Doménech.

Serrat acknowledged for some time that he still has “childhood dreams”, and that he has not renounced all those of his youth, although nevertheless he has “a bittersweet feeling, because I see that some of them, which are not personal but collective, remained very far”.

Although when she looks in the mirror she sees someone “older than she would like”, when she turned 65 she said that she was terrified to think of people wanting to retire because it meant that “they have wasted 40 years of their life in a job that doesn’t allow them to I liked it. ”Now it is his turn to feel that need.

He has assured that he is not very given to enjoying his songs, that he listens to them “little”, but at the same time he manifests himself “satisfied” with his work, with a job with which he survives with “something more than dignity” and that he he does not consider himself “neither an oligarch nor a worker.”

In addition, he concluded, “it is very pleasant to be in the emotional memory of so many generations and to feel that you are part of the collective imagination.”