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The Culture Vulture

About cultural things: music, dance, literature and theatre.

Whatever happened to JOAN MANUEL SERRAT?
Friday, December 30, 2022 @ 5:09 PM

JOAN MANUEL SERRAT was and still is “de puta madre" (the dog’s bollocks). I heard his music for the first time in 1971 during my first visit to Spain. I was 21 at the time and he had just released his album "Mediterráneo". It’s an amazing piece of work and I still listen to it regularly more than 50 years on.


Me and Joan Manuel

Since the lyrics and pronunciation of "Mediterraneo" are very clear, when I was a Spanish teacher in the 70s and 80s, I used his songs as a teaching resource in my A-Level classes. In particular La mujer que yo quiero, Tío Alberto, Barquito de papel, as well as Mediterráneo, the title track.









Here is an example of his work from that album, the title track:

Joan Manuel Serrat - YouTube



Joan Manuel Serrat i Teresa (born on 27 December 1943) is a Spanish musician, singer and composer. He is considered one of the most important figures of modern, popular music in both the Spanish and catalán languages.

Serrat became involved with music at the age of 17 when he obtained his first guitar to which he dedicated one of his earliest songs, "Una guitarra".

In 1968, Spain entered Serrat in the Eurovision Song Contest to sing "La, la, la", but he asked to sing it in catalán, to which the Spanish authorities would not agree. This would be the first time he would come into conflict with the language politics of Franco’s Spain, because of his decision to sing in his native catalán language, repressed by the dictator for some 40 years. Defiantly, Serrat refused to sing the Spanish-language version, and was hurriedly replaced by Massiel, who went on to win the contest with her Spanish-language version of the same song.

In 1969, he made his first tour to South America. He released an album containing songs with texts of the Sevilla-born poet Antonio Machado. This album brought him immediate fame in all Spain and Latin America, though, in spite of this, his decision to sing in Spanish was criticised in some catalán nationalist circles.

The release of the  LP "Mediterráneo"  in 1971 consolidated the artist's reputation worldwide.

In late 1974, Serrat was exiled in Mexico. An arrest warrant had been issued in Spain after he criticised the death penalty and the "established and official violence" of the dictatorship of General Franco. As a result Serrat lived in exile for the remainder of the dictatorship, returning to Spain  after the death of Franco in 1975 and Spain's return to democracy.

In 1976, Joan Manuel Serrat was acclaimed for the first time in the United States, while performing in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.

Throughout the 80s and 90s Serrat continued to tour and to release new music.

In 2000, the Spanish Association of Authors and Editors (SGAE) awarded him one of ten Medals of the Century.

Serrat revealed in October 2004 that he had been undergoing treatment for cancer of the bladder and in November that year he had to cancel a tour of Latin America and the US in order to undergo surgery in Barcelona, where he still lives.

His signature song "Mediterráneo" was selected as the most important Spanish song of the 20th century.

His recovery was satisfactory, and in 2005 he went on tour again around Spain and Latin America with his lifelong producer and arranger, Ricard Miralles. During the tour Serrat played symphonic versions of his songs with local symphony orchestras.

In 2006, Serrat also released "Mô", his first album completely in catalán in 17 years. The album title refers to the city of Mahon, capital of the Spanish island of Menorca and the origin of mayonnaise, where he likes to get away from it all during long touring seasons.

In 2017 and 2018, he carried out a tour named "Mediterráneo da Capo" to commemorate the 47th anniversary of his mythical record "Mediterráneo".

Joan Manuel Serrat was 79 on 27 December 2022, and he had previously announced that he would cease performing live as he entered his ninth decade. Three days before his birthday he gave his last ever concert in Barcelona. On 3 January 2023 Spanish TV is broadcasting one of his last concerts, played on 14 December in Madrid.



Apart from his problems with Franco’s regime, he has also criticised the independence movement in Catalonia and the referendum of 1 October 2017, becoming a figurehead for Catalans who prefer to remain within the Spanish Republic. He has also criticised several times the economic corruption of the independentist Catalan government and the national government of Mariano Rajoy, current president Pedro Sánchez’ predecessor as head of the national government. Serrat believes that the 2017 unilateral Catalan Nationalist push for secession and the reaction from the government of Mariano Rajoy served the purpose of "covering up years of cuts and economic corruption" from both the Catalan regional government and Spanish national government. On several occasions some in the independence movement have called for a boycott of the singer-songwriter and his music.


As for me, I still love his voice and his music. It was the backdrop to my courtship of the lady who was to become my first wife and the mother of my two children. So a very important landmark in my musical life.

I wanted to go to his concert in Málaga in August 2022, but the ticket prices were through the roof. So I shall tune in to his broadcast concert on TVE1 on 3 January and reminisce.


© The Culture Vulture


Tags: Antonio Machado, Barquito de papel, catalán, Catalonia, Culture Vulture, Eurovision Song Contest, Franco, francoist, General Franco, Joan Manuel Serrat, La La La, La mujer que yo quiero, Mahon, Mariano Rajoy, Massiel, Málaga, mayonnaise, Mediterráneo, Menorca, Mô, Pedro Sánchez, Ricard Miralles, Tío Alberto, TVE1,


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