Álex Grijelmo: An admired analysis of Serrat’s lyrics | Ideas



The Mexican essayist Alfonso Reyes said that writers publish their books to stop correcting them. Joan Manuel Serrat, whom I believe to be the greatest interpreter and songwriter, has announced that he will retire in 2022. And with that, it will be difficult for him to improve an arrangement, alter a chord, retouch a phrase. Because he never objected to correcting his own lyrics.

The changes of Franco’s censorship in Fiesta and in Typical girl (both from 1970), but we’ll stick here with voluntary tweaks on several of his most popular creations.

For example in Lucy alter two verses of the original recording. The original version (1971) said: “It is a love letter that blows away painted in my voice ”. And that from the album Serrat live (1984), it remained like this forever: “It’s a love letter that blows away graffiti in my voice ”. With this, what is painted is no longer the wind, but the letter.

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Also in Lucy, the original verses tell: “Today I look in the sand for a full moon that scratched the sea”. But the next time he will record, on the aforementioned live album: “Today I look for a full moon in the sand clawing the sea”. With this, the action is no longer exerted by the moon scratching the sea but by the speaking subject himself (I look in the sand, scratching the sea, for a full moon). And it would also be theoretically possible to understand in the first option – the grammar allows it – that the sea scratched the moon (“I look for a full moon that scratched the sea”: that is, a full moon that the sea scratched).

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The book Songbook Serrat (Aguilar, 2000), where his lyrics meet, he collects “painted” and “that scratched”. Therefore, correct the first but not the second.

In the original of Those little things (1971), it is heard “One thinks that the he killed time and absence ”. However, in all subsequent recordings and performances he will sing “the he killed ”. Thus he passes from the implicit agreement with “memories” (he killed them) to the explicit relationship with “little things” (he killed them). In the book it also appears “he killed them.”

The letter of Those crazy short ones (1981) says: “They carry our gods and our language (…). That is why it seems to us that they are made of rubber ”. The connector “for that” did not make much sense there, and Serrat replaced it in later versions with “sometimes”.

A verse de Mediterranean said at the beginning “I watch love, games and sorrows ”. However, on the 1984 album you hear “I have love, games and sorrows ”. Later in Symphonic serrat (2003) and in the Messy anthology (2014) returns to sing “guardo” (as it also appears in the book). But on another live album, recorded in Mexico (2015), he returns to “I have.” For this reason, it is possible to think of some intermittent neglect (the absent-minded tend to relapse), because “I have” appears in the immediate verse: “Yo, que en la piel I have the heat…”; and in this way there is a reiteration that was avoided with “guardo”. In that song he also corrected, in the book and in later performances, an imperative with the infinitive (“Push [empujad] to the sea my boat ”…).

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When reciting the dedication of Miguel Hernández prior to the poem Elegy (1972), Serrat said on the album: “Ramón Sijé has died like lightning, a who loved so much ”, despite the fact that the Oriolan poet had preferred “with who loved so much ”. Later, Serrat would correct him live, always attentive in his noble desire.

Antonio Machado also suffered a slight modification. Serrat sings when referring to Don Guido, Jaranero waiter who had to settle his head: “And he nods in a Spanish way, which was a marry a maiden of great fortune ”. But Machado did not write the “was” of the verb to go (he was to marry), but rather the verb to be (it was to marry). That is to say: “Settle in a Spanish way, which was to marry a maiden of great fortune.”

They are without a doubt little things in the work of a titan of poetry and music. Furthermore, I am sure that if Machado raised his head he would retouch this verse so that it would remain as Serrat sings it.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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