Spanish singer/songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat has been named the 2014 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year and will be celebrated during a gala on Nov. 19 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The Barcelona-born Serrat started playing music as a teen as he learned the craft both as a songwriter and performer. In 1965, he landed a record deal after singing on the Spanish radio show Radioscope.
Serrat then released two EPs and a full-length debut album and went on to perform live on stage at the Palau de la Música Catalana. That showcase propelled him to being one of the pioneers of the Nova Cançó movement in Spain’s Catalonian region.
Known as a politically outspoken performer, Serrat once refused to follow dictator Francisco Franco’s orders to perform a song in Spanish instead of Catalan during the Eurovision song contest in the late ’60s. He was banned from performing in Spanish media for five years. In the ’70s, he went into a self-imposed exile in Mexico after speaking out against the Franco dictatorship. He did not return to Spain until after Franco’s death in 1975.
“As a profound and brilliant songwriter, a true poet in Spanish and Catalan and a sensational performer, Joan Manuel Serrat’s lyrical style and magnificent talent make him a treasured and timeless musical figure,” said Gabriel Abaroa Jr., president/CEO of the Latin Recording Academy. “Through his talent, artistry, passion, and dedication to his craft, his work has spoken to music fans all over. It is a privilege to recognize a man with such an illustrious and socially conscious career, and we look forward to celebrating his creativity and legacy.”
Serrat released Dedicado A Antonio Machado, Poeta in 1969 in honor of the Spanish poet, and the album received critical acclaim throughout Spain and Latin America. For the last two decades, the singer has had a prolific songwriting, recording and touring career.
In 2006 he released Mô, his first album recorded completely in Catalan after nearly a decade. In 2008 he collaborated with Spanish singer/songwriter Joaquín Sabina and released Dos Pájaros De Un Tiro, followed by 2012’s La Orquesta Del Titanic. The 2013 documentary El Símbolo Y El Cuate chronicled their tour.
“Joan Manuel has become a true symbol for freedom, coherence, quality, and perfect use of our language, and a reference that we all have in reaching our goals,” said Latin Grammy and Grammy winner Shakira in a statement.
Serrat joins an impressive group of artists who have received the Person of the Year honor, including Miguel Bosé, Plácido Domingo, Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Carlos Santana, Shakira and Caetano Veloso. The Latin Grammys will be held a day after the Person of the Year festivities on Nov. 20 and will broadcast live on the Univision Network at 8 p.m. ET.