Joan Manuel Serrat
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27 december 1943

Born in the neighborhood of Barcelona's Poble-sec as a member of a working class family. His father, Josep Serrat, was an anarchist Spanish member of CNT and his mother, Angela Teresa, a housewife originally from Belchite (Zaragoza). Daily life of Catalonia after the Civil War made a deep impact on Joan that many of his later songs would account of those days.(examples are "The Carmeta", "The tieta" and "The Drapaire"). At age 12, Serrat enrolled as a student intern in the Technical College of Tarragona. He became involved with music at the age of 17, when he got his first guitar, to which he dedicates one of his earliest songs, ‘Una guitarra’. In 1965, while singing in a radio show called Radioscope, host Salvador Escamilla helped him secure a record deal with local label Edigsa, where he recorded his first LP, as well as joining the group Els Setze Jutges. Joan Manuel Serrat's first real live stage performance was in 1967 at the Palau de la Música Catalana.

The following year, Serrat joined the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘La, la, la’, but he asked to sing it in Catalan, to which the Spanish authorities would not agree. Eventually Massiel was flown in to sing it instead (and win). As a result, Serrat's songs were banned and his records burned in the streets. He then traveled to South America and participated in the Rio de Janeiro's World Music Festival, where he took first place with the song ‘Penélope’.

In 1969, Serrat released an album containing songs with texts of Antonio Machado, a well known Spanish poet of late 19th-early 20th century. This album brought him immediate fame in all Spain and Latin America though, in spite of this, his decision to sing in Spanish was criticized in some nationalistic Catalan circles. The release of the more rock orientated ‘Mediterráneo’ in 1971 consolidated the artist's reputation worldwide. A fame he consolidated with the 1973 album ‘Per al meu amic’. In late 1974, Serrat was exiled in Mexico due to his condemnation of arbitrary executions under Franco's regime. It wasn't until Franco's death November 20, 1975 that Serrat was able to return to his homeland.

After Franco’s death his regular collisions with run-ins with political leaders weren't over yet. His fame already reached South America and his outspoken critique on the regimes in Argentina and Chile got him banned over there in the eighties. In January 1995, the Spanish government awarded him a medal for his contribution to Hispanic culture. That same year, a tribute album called ‘Serrat, eres único’ was made to honour his career, featuring artists such as Diego Torres, Ketama, Rosario Flores, Joaquín Sabina, and Antonio Flores. On November 28, 1998, Serrat performed the Cant del Barça during the FC Barcelona Centenary festival at the Camp Nou.

In 2000, the Spanish Association of Authors and Editors (SGAE) awarded him with one of ten Medals of the Century. Serrat revealed in October 2004 that he had been undergoing treatment for cancer of the urinary bladder and in November that year he had to cancel a tour of Latin America and the U.S. in order to undergo surgery in Barcelona,. His recovery was satisfactory, and in 2005 he went on tour again (‘Serrat 100×100’) around Spain and Latin America. A second volume of ‘Serrat, eres único’ was also released this year, featuring Alejandro Sanz, Estopa, and Pasión Vega. In 2006 Serrat also released Mô, his first album completely in Catalan in 17 years. A year later he tours with Joaquin Sabina as ‘the two birds with one stone’. In 2009 he records with Albert Amargós a second album in honour of poet Miguel Hernandez called ‘Hijo de la luz y de la sombra’ which is released in 2010.

On the web:

- Serrat's website: www.jmserrat.com

If you like this, you probably like... / european counterparts:

Lucio Dalla (Italy)

Arsen Dedic (Croatia)

What do we think:

DB: There are some artists within Europopmusic that are considered some sort of demi-god in their own country. Usually that status is well earned and largely based on their craftmenship as a songwriter. But for people from other countries who don't master the language this is a problem and makes not every album evenly digestible . The same can be said for Serrat. About his influence on Spanish popular music we don't need to have any discussion. But some of his albums are, well, very Spanish. Personally i think he mastered the mix between Spanish folk and pop/rock the best on his early seventies albums. But in the eighties musically he becomes a bit easy and loses his edge. His lyrics are still beautifull but productionwise they are the lesser albums.

Recommended albums:

♪♪♪ - La paloma - 1969

♪♪♪♪♪ - Dedicado a Antonio Machado, poeta - 1969

♪♪ - Serrat IV - 1970

♪♪♪ - Mi niñez - 1970

♪♪♪♪♪ - Mediterráneo -1971

- Miguel Hernández - 1972

♪♪♪♪ - Per al meu amic – 1973

♪♪♪♪ - Canción infantil - 1974

♪♪ - Cada loco con su tema - 1983

♪♪♪ - El sur también existe

♪♪♪ - Hijo de la Luz y de la Sombra, Miguel Hernández - 2010

Further listening: Ara que tinc vint anys - 1967; Cançons tradicionals - 1968; Com ho fa el vent- 1969; Para piel de manzana - 1975; Res no és mesquí - 1977; 1978 – 1978; Tal com raja - 1980; En tránsito - 1981; Fa vint anys que tinc vint anys - 1984; En directo - 1984; Sinceramente teu - 1986; Bienaventurados - 1987; Material sensible - 1989; Utopía - 1992; Nadie es perfecto - 1994; Banda sonora d'un temps d'un país - 1996; El gusto es nuestro (live with Ana Belén, Víctor Manuel, and Miguel Ríos) - 1996; Sombras de la China - 1998; Cansiones (Tarrés) - 2000; Versos en la boca - 2002; Serrat Sinfónico - 2003; Mô - 2006; Dos pájaros de un tiro (live with Joaquín Sabina) - 2007;

♪♪♪♪♪= outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided


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