Joan Manuel Serrat was born in Barcelona in 1943. He is a singer, songwriter, composer, actor, writer, poet and musician, whose long career started in 1965. Since then, he has sung first in Catalan, then in Spanish, and finally in both languages. In 1968, he was involved in a Eurovision controversy as there was a strife about singing in Catalan or Spanish, and in the end he was replaced by another artist – who ended up winning.
Throughout Franco’s Dictatorship, Serrat lived an unstable balance between the media veto caused by the Eurovision scandal, the censorship of some of his lyrics, and his growing popularity both in Spain and Latin America. During the 70s, he became a vocal protestor against the Dictatorship, with his songs, actions and words, which ended up with another veto and an exile to Mexico. In a way, he became the symbol of the discontent of the twenty- and thirty-somethings that had grown in the Spanish post–Civil War, who were then wading into adulthood. Serrat’s song Mediterráneo (Mediterranean Sea) has been repeatedly called the best song in the history of Spanish pop music. The album stayed as number 1 in Spain for weeks despite the censorship – since then, he has collected innumerable accolades and homages.
My parents… I don’t think I can call them fans, but they have listened to Joan Manuel Serrat for a long time – as a matter of fact, my father used to translate songs into Spanish for my mother back when they were young, as he spoke Catalan and she did not. But they are not concert people, so I was slightly surprised when back in April my mother commented in passing that, had tickets not been sold out, she would have liked to attend the Madrid concerts of Serrat’s goodbye tour El Vicio de Cantar. Serrat 1965 – 2022 (Singing is a vice. Serrat 1965 – 2022). I put the Internet machinery to work, and I found tickets for Zaragoza on the 13th of October. At that time, my parents asked if I would be interested, and I said yes, as he is indeed one of the most important singer–songwriter of the 20th century in Spain.
The problems started when I could not get the day off, so that meant driving there as I left work. I could have got away with leaving half an hour earlier to get to the train as they drove off earlier, but they refused, so we ended up getting to Zaragoza around 17:00. Checking into the hotel took 40 minutes due to the slow check-in process, and luckily we were on the third floor. Funnily enough, it seemed that everyone in the hotel was there for the concert, so a lot of older people not used to travelling nor hotels.
The concert was due to start at 21:30 in the local sports centre Pabellón Príncipe Felipe, and there was a delay of about 15 minutes. To be honest, I did not expect it to be such a powerful experience – I mean, we’re talking about a 79-year-old man here, I did not think he would still have such a powerful voice nor presence on stage. There were a lot of songs I did not know, but the ones I had heard before still retained the vitality of records as old as the 80s! The set list was a remix of his most iconic songs in Spanish, with a couple of them in Catalan language:
- Dale que dale – “Go on and on”.
- Mi niñez – “My childhood”.
- El carrusel del Furo – “Furo’s carrousel”.
- Romance de Curro el Palmo – “The romance of Curro el Palmo”.
- Señora – “Lady”.
- No hago otra cosa que pensar en ti – “I keep thinking about you and nothing else”.
- Algo personal – “Something personal”.
- Nanas de la cebolla – “Onion lullaby”, with lyrics from a famous Spanish poet who wrote the poem in prison, when his wife wrote to him that there were only bread and onions at home, and she had to breastfeed their baby.
- Para la libertad – “For freedom”.
- Cançó de bressol / Canción de cuna – “Lullaby”.
- Hoy por ti, mañana por mí – “Today it’s you, tomorrow it’s me”.
- Tu nombre me sabe a yerba – “Your name tastes like herbs” – grass, actually, but it sounds horrid in English.
- Los recuerdos – “Memories”.
- Es caprichoso el azar – “Fate is whimsical”.
- Hoy puede ser un gran día – “Today can be a great day” – I keep telling myself this.
- Pare – “Father”.
- Mediterráneo – “Mediterranean Sea”, I can totally understand how this is considered one of the best songs ever in Spanish.
- Aquellas pequeñas cosas – “It’s the little things”, started the encore
- Cantares – “Songs or Poems”, with lyrics by Antonio Machado, one of the greatest Spanish poets in the Spanish 20th century.
- Paraules d’amor – “Words of Love”.
- Penélope – though I knew this song, the lyrics were differetn from the ones I was used to.
- Fiesta – “Festival”, a bit of a high-inducing song to finish the concert way past midnight!
It was hilarious to see all these sixty- and seventy- year-olds get out from the pavilion and walk to the hotel, all pumped up and way beyond their bedtime. By the time we arrived at the hotel, there was a queue at the lifts! All these exhausted boomers, hyped up and at the same time with no more energy left. That is when we were so happy to be on the third floor and not something like the seventh or eight (≧▽≦). The bed was comfortable but I did not sleep much.