A Look Back at Gustavo Cerati’s Timeless Legacy

Gustavo Cerati performs onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards Latin America 2003. Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Back in the day, when big tours were generally easier for massive North American or European artists, a unique voice shone a spotlight on what today is known as latin rock or rock en español. That voice – Gustavo Cerati’s – was registered on studio for the last time 10 years ago, when the argentine released “Fuerza Natural,” his last album. In the decade since, many musicians have expressed – sometimes through songs and testimonies – their affinity for Cerati’s legacy.

When talking about Gustavo Cerati, it’s of course impossible to skip the Soda Stereo years. “Soda’s phenomenon had many ingredients: they had a fresh style and people connected with it immediately,” Aterciopelados’ singer, Andrea Echeverri tells Remezcla. “In that moment, music was trying to be more progressive and conceptually political, and they came out and made pop. It was fresh, but at the same time their sound was amazing. Gustavo was a great guitar player, singer and composer, with a special charisma and elegance. They sounded awesome and looked awesome and had a strategy to reach the place they did.”

By 1984 Soda Stereo made their debut in small venues, and by 1986 the trío was the first ever latin rock band to tour the continent. They played Bogotá, Medellín, Arequipa, Lima and Santiago. Their new wave sound, look and magnetism was all over, but there was a major plus: Cerati’s hard-to-explain gift to compose songs in which millions of stories could collide. The first proof of this universality was the 1985 hit “Cuando Pase el Temblor.” Millions of Mexicans who suffered that year’s devastating earthquake took the song as their own soundtrack. Gustavo’s story was also going to be the story of “rock latino.” This was the first chapter.

Another artist who shared stage with Cerati was the pioneer of hip-hop culture in Argentina, Dante Spinetta – MC of Illya Kuryaki & the Valderramas and a respected referent for the trap generation. “I think he pushed rock in Spanish towards unlikely places, and he not only did this concerning music, but also set the bar way high regarding visuals and esthetics,” Spinetta explains to Remezcla. “When we started back in the 90’s, he was always a reference for me and many young musicians. We knew that Soda Stereo was the group we had to ‘compete’ with.”

Dante recalled when he first met Cerati backstage at a gig he shared with his father, the Argentinian rock legend Luis Alberto Spinetta. “They came in and were like…amazing. Their looks, their outfits, were way ahead of our time. Their conception of visuals was shocking starting with their clothes! And up on the stage, their live performance just blew my mind. Years later, when IKV used to play with Soda, I could see how meticulous and perfectionist he was with sound and performances. It was inspiring.”

In the years following 1997 Soda’s final tour, which included stadiums in five countries, Cerati crafted four completely different albums, each subsequent album feeling like the best of his career. To his already-released solo debut, Amor Amarillo (1993), he added Bocanada (1999), Siempre Es Hoy (2002), Ahí Vamos (2006), and Fuerza Natural (2009).

After his passing due to a stroke suffered just after playing in Caracas, Cerati’s legend has only grown. His country now features streets with his name – a country that he, much like tango legend Carlos Gardel, helped put on international music map.