At one point during the Latin Recording Academy’s Person of the Year dinner in honor of Spanish singer/songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat on Wednesday night, a video was shown featuring multiple artists singing his 1971 hit “Mediterráneo” (Mediterranean). They spanned styles and decades, from Ana Belén to Lolita to Joaquín Sabina.
It was one of those musical moments that are incomprehensible to those not familiar with the Spanish-language songbook and the breadth of his repertoire, a catalog that spans generations and countries and still remains relevant.
When Serrat himself got up to sing the track, it fully drove home the scope of his influence as an artist who is still performing and whose songs are still being performed nearly 50 years after they’ve been written.
“I’ve spent 50 years writing songs,” said Serrat in his acceptance speech at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. “I sing because I love to sing. I haven’t met any colleagues who didn’t share that pleasure.”
The pleasure was shared throughout the evening by more than a dozen acts, from veterans like Joaquin Sabina (who has toured and recorded multiple times with Serrat) to superstars like Juanes to newcomers like Debi Nova, underscoring Serrat’s appeal to all ages and demographics.
Spanish star Miguel Bosé performed “Lucía,” a song Serrat wrote for Bosé’s mother, the actress Lucia Bose. After performing “Penélope,” Spanish singer Natalia Jiménez told Serrat how, when she went to make her fortune as a singer in Mexico, her father wrote the words to Serrat’s song “Que Va A Ser De Tí” (What Will Become of You) inside her guitar case.
“So I carried my dad close to me through you,” she said.
Other performers included Panama’s Ruben Blades, Argentina’s Diego Torres — who sang with Spain’s India Martínez — the trio of Soledad, Niña Pastori and Lila Downs, Pablo Alborán (fresh from his debut at No. 1 on the Latin Pop Albums chart), Tania Libertad (who sand “Caminante no hay camino” with Axel) and Jorge Drexler. A high point was Vicentico — who flew in from Argentina exclusively to sing for Serrat — performing “Algo Personal” alongside a rapping René Perez of Calle 13.
The Mandalay Bay Convention center, possibly the biggest venue where the Person of the year has been housed, was filled to capacity. With tables seating over 1100, it was the best-attended Person of the Year event since its inception.
Serrat, who will celebrate 50 years since his first public performance this coming February, just released Antología Desordenada (Disorganized Anthology) on Sony, a four-CD set of 50 of some of his biggest hits, most re-recorded, including 31 duets with different artists.