Joan Manuel Serrat

SerratSerrat, a Catalonian songwriting powerhouse who has been performing concerts since the 1960s, will be honored at the fifteenth Latin Grammys on November 20, 2014.

I first heard his music in 1983 on a trip to Ciudad Real from Herencia to take my Spanish sister to the doctor.  Her aunt and uncle, who lived in Ciudad Real, invited us into their home for the big meal.  The music they listened to, the clothes they wore and the home furnishings immediately struck me.  These were hippies living a stone’s throw away from the Medieval village where I was staying, Herencia.  Today I do not remember their names or if the sibling belonged to Milagros or Vicente.

Serrat’s early songs coincided with Spain’s exit from dictatorship.  Listening to them you think of the folklore music of the 1960s and 1970s from the western world.  Although many our love songs, the music and lyrics belong to the social revolutions from these decades.  I believe Serrat’s music not only defined the era but participated in the transition from dictatorship to democracy.  Spaniards like Clara’s aunt and uncle were eager to see Spain transformed into a liberal, secular society.  Serrat’s music took them there.  And not only because he chose to sing in Catalán under Franco.  The sound itself, primarily acoustic guitar, mixed with Serrat’s troubador voice connected his artistic work to democratic change in and outside of Spain.  He was a prophet of sorts.

I like Serrat’s sappy love songs from the 1970s for their exquisitely simple language.  Check out Poema de amor, La mujer que yo quiero, Tu nombre me sabe a yerba or, my favorite, Penelope.

Listening to these songs, I remember a Spanish society on the verge of change and the stark contrasts still present between Old Spain and New Spain.

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