Joan Manuel Serrat says goodbye to you | Culture

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At the age of 77, pushed by the pandemic, which removed him from the stage, him and all the singers who seek in the public the reason for their music and songs, Joan Manuel Serrat has decided that he will retire after a tour that will begin in April 2022 in New York and will end at the end of that year in Barcelona, ​​the city where he was born. At his home in Barcelona, ​​the former Noi del Poble Sec tells EL PAÍS the reasons for his retirement after 65 years of a career whose successes are told through songs and whose Mediterranean It has been the hymn of his life and of the many followers who have him as one of the most important musicians of the last decades, as a composer, poet and singer. In this interview he explains the main reason for his goodbye and the details of what will be his last tour: “I have decided to say goodbye in person. I didn’t like feeling fired by a plague. “

Question. Why have you decided to withdraw from the stage?

Answer. First, because the confinement to which this still-lasting pandemic led us to make it impossible to continue the profession of singing in public. And, also, due to the need to recover family life, fulfill intimate and necessary matters. Following the rules of Ecclesiastes: There is a time for everything. Oh, and I didn’t decide to quit. They have been the events that occurred after that fall of Joaquín Sabina [12 de febrero de 2020] that forced us to abandon a tour. Then came the covid … The difficulties were distancing me. He was more and more away from the activity he did, and although not from feeling, the truth is that he was also inevitably away from people. What I have decided is to say goodbye in person. I didn’t like feeling fired by a plague. That is why I decided to go to the most natural place to do it, with the audience in front of me, full of gratitude and joy.

P. What memory will he take of all this?

R. Memory is something that lives in you, it is here inside. I was lucky, I was born in the best house I could have been born in. I grew up lovingly and with good teachers. I spent time on what I liked to do, what I wanted to do and what I thought there should be. I live, to date, a glorious time, in which the worst happened in my childhood and adolescence. And childhood makes anything good. My children have not gone to war and I could see my parents die. I have had a job that has allowed me to see the world and meet magnificent people and has made me a person loved by many people. Let’s say that to date I have felt like a well-loved and well-lived man. Love has treated me very well, my children are healthy and I have five grandchildren who love me and I love them. Oh and yuta [Tiffón, su mujer].

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P. What will your goodbye tour be like?

R. One of the most important things my job has given me is the ability to travel. And that of traveling, the possibility of having friends in many places that have helped me to discover and value things. That is why I propose the tour in such a way that the common places, the friends who remain and those who left, the food, the drinks, the landscapes and the memories have a great weight. Above all, I want to say goodbye to them personally.

P. Any melancholy?

R. What happens will represent it as I find it. I will say goodbye on December 23 in Barcelona. But until I get there I want to travel many roads.

P. Latin America?

R. Too! What would be of me without Latin America! … I want to do a show during which the smile of people does not fall from their lips … There will be 20, 30 songs, and I don’t know what they will be. I will be accompanied by my usual team. Technicians, musicians, illuminators, the same as always … Even I’m going to be the same! Colleagues? I do not know. Many things could be done. We’ll see.

P. The beginning of the farewell?

R. At the Beacon Theater in New York, on April 25 or 27. I’ve been there other times, very New Yorker … Then South America. In summer we will be in Spain. My purpose is not only to say goodbye to all those who have treated me well over the years, but to do it in the places where they are. I will say goodbye, and I will not play again. I will return to the sites, I will say hello, I will eat, but I will no longer return to the stages. I will play and compose at home, I may make a record. But I will not return to the stage. It has to be done at some point. In the confinement I noticed the trees, the birds. And above all I read a lot. I was leaving it. And I will say goodbye not in the French way, but accordingly.

Serene, as if he were facing the sea of ​​his best songs, in front of the garden where, during the pandemic, he has heard the singing of the birds of his neighborhood in the upper part of Barcelona, ​​Serrat tells of his irrevocable plans to say goodbye. The singer of the Mediterranean, of childhood and joy, the musician who composed for Antonio Machado, Miguel Hernández and Mario Benedetti, the man who opposed the Franco regime and who accompanied Spanish democracy with determination and hope and committed to the struggles of the American peoples against dictatorships, he will be 79 years old when he stops acting in public. The author of Mediterranean leave records and recordings that follow and will continue to listen to who successively could have been your grandparents, your brothers, your children, your grandchildren and even your great-grandchildren.

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He sought in people the same as in his music and that is why his songs, from those he made himself to those that came to him from foreign sources and from poets that he has admired, They are a tribute to honesty and courage, to the “simple and tender” things that have marked his life since he was a boy in Poble Sec in Barcelona. Son of humble parents, the mother was a woman of republican birth, of relatives retaliated in the war and later, and the father was a plumber. Serrat never allowed what he learned at home to evaporate along his way, which sometimes went uphill even though he insisted on doing it on foot … He always aspired, he said in this newspaper when he turned 60, “to have been able to preserve who I was, what I learned at home ”. He was also “lucky to have good teachers” and to have complemented what he was assimilating with everything that has been happening to him.

From the beginning of his career as a musician he sang that past that continues to be a matter of his evocations and of his convictions, since the things that move him turned out to be the things that he moves through, those that push him, from the Mediterranean Sea, to the who dedicated the most powerful, simple and successful of his songs, to that woman from Belchite, his mother, whose story is a dramatic symbol of the Civil War. “The groom dies before the wedding; leaves town to work in Barcelona; war breaks out when he is in Barcelona; they shoot their father and mother; 30 members of his family are executed, murdered in the village; During the war, she was dedicated to picking up children and traveling with them throughout Spain, from top to bottom; go back to Barcelona; marry my father; live the tragedy of all the postwar years, the scarcity, the fear, the persecution ”.

Serrat, in concert in 1996 with Ana Belén, Miguel Ríos and Víctor Manuel, on the 'El gusto es mine' tour.
Serrat, in concert in 1996 with Ana Belén, Miguel Ríos and Víctor Manuel, on the ‘El gusto es mine’ tour.JOSEP LLUÍS SELLART

That memory is not alien to the one that later embraces by putting music to impressive biographies of the defeated Republicans, Antonio Machado and Miguel Hernández, nor to those who represent the dramas of South America, when he puts music to The South also exists, from his friend (”my teacher) Mario Benedetti. Subtle in what he composes, of love, of daily life, of the landscapes that made him a poet of all the generations that complete him, he has fled from demagoguery and screaming, but his way of being, his imprint, is that of a man whose commitments are clear, clean, like the poetic voice that inhabits him.

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That story of his mother’s adventures in the war was joined by that of his father, “out of a concentration camp”, who marries his mother, they have a son who “is a good student” but is looking for “complications ”In the Franco regime and soon this Joan Manuel Serrat begins to be for history who throughout 65 years has not stopped singing to the nature of his origins. Within that autobiography that is transparent in his songs is, in the field of his relationships, his celebration of friendship, which comes from when he was an aspiring boy. new song until, in the years of his artistic and personal maturity, he related privately and in public with great friends from his life, such as Joaquín Sabina, Ana Belén, Víctor Manuel and Miguel Ríos. Outside of that musical sphere, there were great losses of the sentimental geography of friendship Juan Marsé and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, as well as Luis Eduardo Aute, with whom he shared teaching. Friend from the stage and also when he got off it, he has earned a place in the Spanish language that he shares with Kim from India, the character that Rudyard Kipling called “the friend of the whole world.”

On Lullaby (Lullaby), specifically, he tried “to give a kiss to that woman who, despite everything that had happened, kept dreaming of her people”, because “perhaps we do nothing but dream of childhood, which must be the only happy time of our life”. That is the start of his life as a singer-songwriter but, in all its extremes, it is also the explanation of a roadmap that has turned his songs, all his songs, into a general hymn of joy, commitment, childhood and life. friendship. When i arrive to Mediterranean (1971) already did it knowing that the root was also the sea that bathed him, and embarked on the path of that tribute that so many awards, and listeners, has had with materials that seem inspired by some of the poets who were later part of his more sentimental songbook, more meaning. It is a great composition and a great poem, a round work chosen many times as the best song of the 20th century and its best song in 50 years.

Performance of the singer-songwriter in the Madrid Amusement Park, in September 1983. / EFE
Performance of the singer-songwriter in the Madrid Amusement Park, in September 1983. / EFE

Joan Manuel Serrat never thought, while studying and cultivating the guitar and voice, that he would be a singer. The father used to sing him at Christmas The blackberry… “I wrote songs because I liked to sing”, and after recording Morning song (1968) “I began to discover the trade, and to love it”. The road climbs, The road is difficult, he came to say in that farewell to adolescence, but he never stopped looking back, at Poble Sec, at his mother, at his father, at his friends. Hence his love or farewell songs are also born. That is where the poet Serrat was born, while the songs of Raimon or Setze Jutges prospered in Barcelona, ​​opening paths for him in Catalan and Spanish. It was never considered that one language or the other were species in struggle but rather complementary modes of expression. The shock that occurred when the regime prohibited him from singing in Catalan on The, the, the composed by the Dynamic Duo “it was not an anecdote, it was something very hard”, he was forbidden to sing in retaliation for refusing to do it in Castilian before the Eurovision cameras, and the force that was left to those who represented Franco loomed over him like an enemy of the motherland. I would say at the age of 60 that this remained in the history of his clashes with Franco’s power as much more than an anecdote that reached the category of political confrontation when he decided to go into exile in Mexico for a few months, until General Franco died, Spain it was opened to the Transition that democracy gave of itself.

The Transition that saw him born adult to song and politics has been his point of reference as a citizen. Friendship has been the essence of his aspirations as a human being. Memory is his way of exercising gratitude to those who have accompanied him, and the scenarios in which his public life has passed will be an active nostalgia since the end of 2022, since what he has sung and what he has recorded will continue to give memory of the He leaves behind the culture that he has contributed to enlarge in both languages ​​and in the many countries that have sung with him in the best and worst moments of their lives. Joan Manuel Serrat says goodbye to you, he leaves, as Miguel Hernández would say of himself, but he stays. Forever.

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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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