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Spanish Music: Joan Manuel Serrat

Spanish singer songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat was born on 27th December 1943 and is considered one of the most important musicians of modern, popular music in both the Spanish and Catalan languages. 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.” He recorded his first LP in 1967 called “Ara que tinc vint anys” and has produced many amazing and classic Spanish songs.

In 1968, Spain entered Joan Manuel Serrat in the Eurovision Song Contest 1968 to sing “La, la, la”, but he asked to sing it in Catalan, to which the Spanish authorities would not agree. This would be the first time he would come into conflict with the language politics of Francoist Spain, because of his decision to sing in his native Catalan language, repressed by Dictator Francisco Franco. 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 interpretation. As a result, Serrat’s songs were banned and his records burned in the streets.

In 1969, Joan Manuel Serrat released an album containing songs with texts of Antonio Machado, a well known Spanish poet of late 19th-early 20th century. This album: “Dedicado a Antonio Machado, poeta” brought him immediate fame in all of Spain and Latin America though. In spite of this, his decision to sing in Spanish was still criticized in some nationalistic Catalan circles. Regarding this and other times when his choice of language (sometimes Spanish, sometimes Catalan) raised controversy on either side of the political sphere, he once explained: “I sing better in the language they forbid me.”

In late 1974, Joan Manuel 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. In 1976, he was acclaimed for the first time in the U.S.A., while performing in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. In January 1995, the Spanish government awarded him a medal for his contribution to Hispanic culture. His signature song “Mediterráneo” was selected as the most important song of the 20th century in Spain.

Joan Manuel Serrat has never stopped writing and recording music and has an amazing reportoire of classic Spanish songs. The most famous of Serrat’s songs include: “Mediterráneo”, “Cantares” and “Para La Libertad”, with words that every person in Spain knows by heart. Serrat is one of those singer songwriters that seems to have been around for ever and as soon as you hear his voice is impossible to mistake him. He is an exceptional singer with a style all of his own that has weathered remarkably well throughout the years. More recent albums include: “Mô” (2006) and “Hijo de la luz y de la sombra” (2010) and these fair just as well as the older classics.

Watch some Serrat videos with lyrics:

Para La Libertad

Get the albums:


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