"The beauty about people like Gustavo Cerati is that when asked, there are many people who have a story about him or a moment they shared," music executive Tomas Cookman wrote me in an email. "That is because he was often very accessible to people. He had a lot of friends and liked meeting new people and finding out about new things."
It’s true. Everyone has a Cerati story, even if you never met him. His melodies and lyrics became the soundtrack of our youth, forever linked to heartbreaks, crushes and growing up. We all remember that concert or have heard urban legends of that time when a friend of a friend ran into him in the street in Bogotá, or Caracas or Tijuana and snapped a photo (or threw back a shot of tequila) with the rock idol.
As a sort of tribute, I reached out to musicians, industry colleagues and fans who met or worked with Cerati to share personal anecdotes and favorite memories. Some described brief, fleeting encounters; others discussed his profound influence on their careers. A lot of their stories took place in our turf, in the United States, when Cerati was on tour or recording his albums. All of them are a reminder of what made him a remarkable musician, poet and human being.
Alex Pels, former head of MTV Latinoamérica and former GM of Mun2
On producing the now classic Soda Stereo MTV Unplugged in 1996
"In 1988 I was producing a one-hour Spanish show called MTV internacional that syndicated in Latin America, with Daisy Fuentes as the host. For the very first show, I found out they were in town [in NYC] recording “Doble Vida”, with Carlos Alomar, David Bowie’s guitar player. So they were the very first artists we had on the show and a few years later we launched the network.
We did a lot of projects together and I remember asking them 'Don't you guys want to do an Uplugged?' But Gustavo was hesitant. He didn't feel the music of Soda was the music to do in an Unplugged format. He came up with the idea of doing it electric with a very mellow but very intense vibe, with a loungey feeling. He was convinced those songs could have a life of their own that way. And of course, he was right."
Didi Gutman, artist (Brazilian Girls, Masa)
On working on his last album, 2010's “Fuerza Natural"
"I did keyboards overdubs on his last album, Fuerza Natural, which was produced by Hector Castillo, my partner in the band Masa. We did sessions in NY and in Buenos Aires. I love that album and have fond memories of the sessions and hanging out, especially the party with Radiohead in Buenos Aires.
I've known Gustavo for a long time. I was offered to play keyboards in Soda Stereo when I was very young, and I declined the offer (ouch!!!!) because I wanted to dedicate my energies to my own project (regrets!!!!!!!).
I'm glad I had a chance to work with him. We'll miss him."
René Perez, artist (Calle 13)
On the last time they had dinner together
"The last time I saw Gustavo was in Belgrano, in Buenos Aires. We had dinner at a small restaurant just below Andrés Calamaro's studio, a studio where I slept over two different times because I had no other place to stay. (Today Andrés is learning this jeje.) It was us, my brother Eduardo and my friend Rafa Arcaute. We talked about working together on a song that later became "La Vuelta al Mundo." The lyrics were already written, he was excited and we were even more pumped.
We chatted about many things, such as living life to the fullest, making sure not to waste not even a second, about traveling without luggage and how lucky we were to be able to travel as musicians. He told us about his kids and how he learned from the music they listened to. We were there for around three hours. We said goodbye with a hug and three months later, what happened happened. I didn't have the fortune to get to know him like his close friends did, but just those times we crossed paths were enough to make me feel grateful."
Tomas Cookman, founder/owner Nacional Records, founder Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC)
On touring with Cerati through Mexico
"I was part of his management team for a while during his solo career and my favorite memories involved a tour we did with just him and another artist in which he did a pure electronica show, no vocals. It was throughout Baja California and you should have seen the faces of the crowds when they realized that Gustavo was not going to sing. He loved it.
We ended one of the nights on a small side street in Mexicali having street tacos with a bunch of just got-off-of-work mariachi musicians and the interaction between Cerati and them was beautiful. It was the era before every phone had a camera, so it just lives in memory. Much can be said about his music, but more can be said about the man."
Juan Campodónico, artist (Campo, Bajofondo) and producer
On working with Cerati on the song "El Mareo" for Bajofondo
"I wrote the song “El Mareo” with Fernando Santullo and then took it to Bajofondo. We invited Cerati to record the main vocal on the track. His interpretation took the song to another level. The song fits him perfectly, like a tailored suit.
He was the type of artist who was refined and popular at the same time. I really like that. Always made very artistic, quality work without losing touch with the public.
He embodied the sensitivity of the cool "porteño" of the postmodern era."
Andrea Echeverri, artist (Aterciopelados)
On his legacy
"Cerati is in a sonic heaven, he finally rests but he hasn’t left. We have his memory and his beautiful songs, his immortal voice, his genius. He lives on in me and millions more, forever. In me and in my daughter, who sings his songs. He was my Platonic Love of sonic origin, sharp and perennial. His song a detonator, shoots up my senses; his voice a spell of a thousand and one nights, a heavenly lullaby, a balm."*
(*Translated from the Spanish original Andrea sent via email on Thursday afternoon. She later posted this same text on her Facebook . So I’d like to think she wrote this at our request first.)
Camilo Lara, artist (Mexican Institute of Sound) and former record executive
On sharing the stage in New York City’s Central Park in 2006
"I remember having a conversation about his health. He had problems with his circulatory system. So we exchanged tips on how to travel and deal with it. I remembering seeing him on the back of the stage watching the show. Really cool and honest guy.
For my generation in all of Latin America, Gustavo was the translator of what was happening around the world. I understood that I could create new wave, shoegaze and many other sounds in our lenguaje through his music."
Pili Montilla, host and producer "Té Para Tres" TV show
On why she named her show after a Soda Stereo song
"I had the honor of meeting Cerati once backstage at one of the many Cerati concerts I went to. This one was on my island of Puerto Rico. He was tall. He was cool. You know, that type of coolness you can't fake.
I became a fan of Cerati in high school when I first heard the unplugged version of "En la Ciudad de la Furia." I had no idea such beautiful music could be created, much less existed. It transported me to a magical place.
I have Cerati's work so ingrained in me that the name just came to me. I didn't have to brainstorm, ask around or anything. It was clear that "Té Para Tres" was the right name for a music show that celebrates Latin alternative music en español. Plus, personally it's a way of weeding out true music fans. Ja!"
Toto Cullen, photographer and director
On working on the music video of “La Excepcion” from 2006’s "Ahi Vamos"
"We went to the studio first to talk about the concept. He listened and contributed to the ideas even though they didn’t make much sense at the time, since the video had a lot of animation. He said, 'Let’s do it.' He was willing to do whatever. He was always very involved with the visuals; that’s why it was fulfilling to work with him.
I directed the live shots of the video. We filmed for 12 hours and he was always on, active. He was someone I grew up listening to and watching his videos (“La Ciudad de la Furia” was really out there and inspiring for me as a teenager). It was a milestone in my career."
Yuzzy Acosta, founder Eclectic Media artist development firm
On getting lost in New York City together
"The first time I met Gustavo, I was on tour with Aterciopelados in New York. It was Aterciopelados’ first U.S. tour and Soda Stereo were already huge. Andrea [Echeverri] and I were starstruck. I remember we were joking backstage with Andrea and there were some Oreo cookies and I put a bunch of them in my mouth, just joking around. Then Gustavo shows up and goes 'Hey what’s going on?' and asks me what is there to do that night after the show. And of course, my mouth is full of black Oreos and I just wanted to die. We were all cracking up.
Through the years, when he would stop in town we would go out together and hunt for records, check out live shows like Echo and the Bunnymen and The Verve. He could blend in and walk around and people watch. Those are the things you really cherish when you’re at that level: privacy and to experience life like anybody else. He was always observing things, was very intense and an absolute perfectionist."
Charly Garcia founder, FMEL festival in Chicago
On volunteering at a Cerati concert in Chicago in 2003
"I was part of the staff of Radio Arte station, which was completely ran by young Latinos. In 2003, for our 6-year anniversary, we had the honor of having Cerati play a special concert, which we promoted on the air and by handing out flyers. The day of the show, I was in charge of not letting anyone into Cerati’s green room. I introduced myself to him, "I’m 'Charly' Carlos Garcia” and he laughed out loud [Charly Garcia is another rock god in Argentina].
After the concert, the backstage was packed with people and eventually we ended up letting everyone in. Many, many hugs, photos and autographs for all.
We drove the band to the hotel downtown and the musicians went off to party, but Cerati just wanted something to eat. He asked me what was around at that hour. I stuttered and managed to say 'Coffee, doughnuts, tacos or pizza.' He smiled and said 'Pizza sounds good.' We walked 2 blocks and when we realized that it was past 2AM and everything was closed, we went back to the hotel. A hug, a 'thank you' and a strong handshake was enough for me to remember him as a humble and talented musician."
Alex Gonzalez, artist (Maná)
On what made Cerati unique
"He was such a gifted and talented musician, such a great songwriter, great frontman, and his guitar technique and sound were just awesome. We never worked together but I did hang out with him a lot when Soda Stereo would play in Mexico, and also when he was touring as a solo artist. Just such a nice guy, he was always cool with me. Like he said himself "Gracias totales Cerati!"
Kevin Johansen, artist
On Cerati's influence
"Gustavo Cerati was and will always be one the most greatest musicians not only in the region, but in the world. He wrote, played and sang like no one else. His songs will endure for a long time. #graciasGustavo!"
Nuria Net is a founding editor at Fusion and now Social Storytelling Editor working on our Snapchat Discover channel. Co-founder, former editor-in-chief of Remezcla.com. Net is her real last name; Lechuga is her DJ name.