Raimon's music explained in 10 songs
From early guitar-accompanied vocals, to the elegant sophistication of the latest albums
BarcelonaRaimon is everything he has sung: love and civic poetry, struggle, resistance, solidarity and disappointment. However, Raimon is also the way he has sung, the tools he has used and the musical decisions he has made over the course of more than five decades. The impetus of "Al vent" is not the same as the moderation of "A l'estiu quan són les nou", and yet these two songs separated by 52 years are united by an unmistakable thread: his voice, and his way of understanding music. Despite the magnitude of his work makes any reductionist attempt impossible, here we try to explain Raimon's music through ten songs.
A voice and a guitar, with no further fuss
"The guitar is always there, from the beginning to the end", explained Raimon in 2013, in an interview with ARA following the publication of the album Raimon 50. Live. Gran Teatre del Liceu (Sony). In fact, there was the guitar and the voice, as if neither of them tolerated each other’s silence. This was "Al vent," a squirting scream. Furthermore, as David Carabén, leader of the music group Mishima, says, Raimon "takes a guitar and does not play it arpeggiated, but scratching it". All this caused that ternary rhythm to impact like a supernova in 1963. When the Nova Cançó was just learning to be French, Raimon appeared like thunder from the south. Despite the admiration he felt for Georges Brassens, in "Al vent" he shared the determination of blues and the despair of flamenco singing.
The recording of the song also explains the determination of the singer-songwriter from Xàtiva, as recalled by Enric Gispert, Edigsa's musical director during the 60s. "We commissioned the arrangements to a musician who thought that it was rock. When we all went to the recording studio, we heard drums, electric guitars, the bass... That sounded really explosive and forceful! When Raimon heard it, he said he did not want to record (...). It took me a lot to convince him to try again. Then we recorded it and everything was better", said Gispert in the catalog of the exhibition «Raimon. Al vent del món» that took place at Arts Santa Mónica in 2012. What would have happened if that 23-year-old Raimon had played «Al vent» with an electric guitar? According to the troubadour Xavier Baró, "with an electric accompaniment closer to rock, Raimon would have been a star". And yet, what a star he has been.
The first protest song, contemporary to Bob Dylan
"There are people who think and believe that «Al vent» is a protest song. What are we going to do about it ..." The first protest song to be published in this country is «Diguem no », released on an EP in 1963, six months after «Al vent». This is how Raimon himself details it in the book «Tot el que ha cantat» (La Magrana, 2017). "Diguem no" appears the same year as "The Freewheelin 'Bob Dylan", the album of "Blowin' in the wind", "Masters of war" and "A hard rain's a-gonna fall", three protest songs comparable to Raimon's.
Musically, it is not possible to dissect the author of "Diguem no" by pulling on different strings. Some associate it with Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan, and recall that music is also the result of material conditions. Of the Raimon of that time we have an iconic image: a man with a guitar. "At that time the guitar had to do everything, for economic reasons, but also because until 1977 I could not assure musicians anything because it would sometimes happen that we would get to a place to play and they told me that the concert had been banned - Raimon recalls -. For many years Annalisa and I were the ones with the speakers in the car. There were a whole series of external conditions that made you do things in a way. All American folk music, by Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, is like that too."
«Treballaré el teu cos»
The love of love, and also the love of the double bass
"It is from 1977 that I already allow myself the luxury of having [Enric Ponsa's] double bass live, and then I began to place more instruments", says Raimon. The double bass was the dream accompaniment, in the same way Pierre Nicolas had Georges Brassens and Barbara. "Treballaré el teu cos", included in the EP Cançons d'amor (1965), is a love piece with an instrument that elegantly highlights eroticism.
Over the years, the double bass and the clarinet were indispensable in Raimon's concerts. Performers as notable as Fernando Serena and Pau Domènech tied an extraordinary dialogue with "Treballaré el teu cos" in the 2012 Gran Teatre del Liceu live show.
«Cançó de plenitud del matí»
With Salvador Espriu, another melodic universe opened
In the words of musicologist Enrique Gispert, Raimon's first songs become strong in "melodic austerity", and it is when he decides to sing the poetry of Salvador Espriu that his ambition takes him to new melodic territories. The Raimon on the album Cançons de la roda del temps (1966) is not the austere singer-songwriter, but a composer who demands harmonic and melodic challenges, even in short pieces such as the magnificent «Cançó de la plenitud del matí», "built on accords of a fragment of the Mystery of Elche", as specified by Gispert.
Espriu himself praised him: "In the Cançons de la roda del temps, I think that Raimon reaches one of the most important moments of his career. I am very happy with the interpretation he gives to my poems", said the poet.
«18 de maig a la ‘Villa’»
The gallop of the guitar, and the voice that rises well above
The song «18 de maig a la ‘Villa’» has an undeniable political charge, because it recalls the concert at the Complutense University of Madrid in 1968, when the echo of the cobblestones that came from France resounded. In addition, he sang it at the Olympia in Paris, thus completing the symbolic circle. Aside from the lyrics, "18 de maig a la ‘Villa’" is also musically relevant. The guitar gallops as Paco Ibáñez's would shortly after with verses by Rafael Alberti («A galopar»), and the voice rises like never before. Songs like this one, «Veles e vents», «Treballaré el teu cos» or «13 de març», in which the voice "rises up there", he could continue to sing when he was older thanks to having given up smoking. "I had smoked until 1987, and when I quit I gained resilience. Also, I was able to calmly sing the sustained notes that I didn't dare to do in the eighties", Raimon explained.
«Veles e vents»
Classic fullness, in every way
Experimentation with Espriu's verses was essential for Raimon to face new challenges, such as adding music to Ausiàs March, Jordi de Sant Jordi, and Anselm Turmeda. His journey into 15th century poetry has yielded splendorous results. Making "music of phonetics", as Antoni Batista says, Raimon also incorporated the classical, or perhaps the pre-classical, background of composers like Vivaldi - who had so fascinated him from very young. He was following the footsteps of Brassens, who had also traveled to the 15th century to add music to poems by François Villon. In any case, that poetic journey certified the beginning of Raimon's mature stage, classic in the sense of balance: "Veles e vents", composed in 1969 and included in the album Per destruir aquell qui l'ha desert (1970) , faced the verses of Ausiàs March as if he were creating a Renaissance lied, but in the middle of the 20th century. It is a song of "impeccable proportions" and "the melody has a delicious flight", Gispert pointed out.
«Com un puny»
When love travels with a perfect poem
One of the most moving moments of the farewell concerts at the Palau de la Música in 2017 was when Raimon sang "Com un puny"; according to singer-songwriter Roger Mas, a "wonderful love song" by Raimon. "Com un puny", "one of Raimon's most well resolved and most perfect poems", as Espriu asserted, dialogues with "Veles e vent" also musically; it is its heir, and takes the magic of the recitative further. Furthermore, it demonstrates Raimon's harmonic ability, and every bit of the double bass is a reminder of the immensity of the love he shares with Annalisa Corti. "Com un puny" closed the album A Víctor Jara, published in 1974.
The connection with Latin American music
Other singer-songwriters have been more permeable than Raimon to the Latin American song. However, they share the civic and political symbolism, as demonstrated by adapting to Catalan «Te Recuerdo Amanda», by Víctor Jara. In addition, he published the version in 1974, a few months after the Chilean singer-songwriter was assassinated by the military under General Pinochet on September 16, 1973. The connection between Raimon and Víctor Jara was later embodied in another singer-songwriter from Xàtiva: Feliu Ventura.
«Al meu país la pluja»
Singing during keyboard times
Unlike Ovidi Montllor and other singers from the País Valencià such as Miquel Gil, Raimon did not work so intensely with the popular roots of working songs, or in general with the traditional song. But he did do so in «Al meu País la pluja», a song that opens and closes a cappella, and is part of an album with arrangements by Josep Pons which has an important keyboard presence: Entre la nota i el so (1984). He is a different Raimon, but as always very expressive with his voice.
«A l’estiu quan són les nou»
The tailored suit made by the arrangements of Manel Camp
Manel Camp has been one of Raimon's trusted musicians. His are the orchestral arrangements and the musical direction of the album Quan l’aigua es queixa (1979), elegant and mirrored in American traditions. Camp also participated in Cançons de mai (1997), with jazz and Mediterranean games and memorable pieces such as "Soliloqui solipsista". He repeated on Rellotge d'emocions (2011), the last album with new compositions by Raimon. That album opened with «A l’estiu quan són les nou», another love declaration: "Tu i jo hem volgut sempre ser-ne dos" ("You and I have always wanted to be two"). He is a loving and happy Raimon, who sings because he feels lucky. He sings transmitting a whole musical life, mastering the tempo and changing the tone to attack the definitive verse as if it were the simplest thing in the world. This is one of Raimon's legacies: knowing how to put his voice in its place, and avoiding the waste of emotions with exhibitionism and fireworks.