"If it's good enough for Bob Dylan, it's good enough for me"

Joaquín Sabina on politics, his illness and environmental controversy over his only concert date for the summer

A couple of tubby cats are making the rounds of Joaquín Sabina's house. It's looking like a lazy summer for the 62-year-old singer, poet and songwriter: over 10,000 fans having flocked to his only concert date in Spain, on Saturday at a music festival called Músicos en la Naturaleza, in Hoyos del Espino (Ávila).

"When the news spread about my bout of acute diverticulitis [a digestive disease], ticket sales dropped significantly. I want to stress that the doctors are letting me sing, and that I feel in good shape," says Sabina, a leading musical figure who is sometimes described as the Spanish Bob Dylan. When this reporter pointed out that environmental groups criticized the festival for endangering the natural area of Gredos, Sabina only had this to say: "If it's good enough for Dylan, it's good enough for me," in reference to the fact that the US artist performed there in 2008. "I was offered the concert, they pay well and it's a good way to end the season."

Known for his left-leaning views, Sabina states that the Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero - who will not seek a third term in general elections next year and whose popularity ratings are dismally low due to his management of the economic crisis - will be remembered "like Gorbachev: rejected in his own country and admired outside it."

Sabina also gets poetic about the 15-M movement, a grassroots uprising by citizens who are angry at having to bear the brunt of the crisis, and who staged a month-long protest in Madrid's Sol Square - just six minutes away from Sabina's home. But he says that he did not drop by the camp.

"[May 15, when the protest started], was a glorious weekend. Except for their hatred of bullfighting, I subscribe to all of their views," he explains. "I didn't go. They didn't appreciate seeing [theater actor] Willy Toledo there, and I respect that."

If the man himself will be scarcely seen on a stage this summer, fans can read up on new personal disclosures in a newly released book, Pongamos que hablo de Joaquín, written by fellow songwriter Joaquín Carbonell. In a way, it is further proof that his former friends seem to feel a pathological need to publicize their old grievances.

"I just can't go back to the old habits and turn this house into a club. I'm already dangerous enough as it is by myself," says Sabina, who describes the book as disproportionate in both its praise and its criticism of him. "I stopped drinking after too many nights in which I ran off in my pajamas and ended up lying out on the street. I felt terror at not remembering what I'd done. But let's stop talking about all that silliness. Right now I'm really enthusiastic because I'm going to record an album with Joan [Manual Serrat]. Now that's a beautiful thing."

Spanish singer-songwriter Joaquín Sabina poses in his Madrid home.
Spanish singer-songwriter Joaquín Sabina poses in his Madrid home.GORKA LEJARCEGI
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