The leader of the folk generation in Romania and his sad destiny, Valeriu Sterian: “Come, Lord, to see what is left of the people!”, the artist’s cry of pain

Valeriu Sterian, known as Vali Sterian, was born on 21 September 1952, in Râmnicelu, Buzău. He was a Romanian folk and rock musician, singer and composer, his father, a mathematics and music teacher, inspiring his passion for art.

Vali Sterian, was one of the pillars of Romanian folk, being a leader of the generation that laid the foundations of this musical genre in Romania in the 1970s. He also distinguished himself as a musician and poet, making major contributions to the development of the folk and folk-rock genres in Romania, as well as to the fusion of the mood and message expressed by the lyrics and the folk-rock melodic line.

In 1972 he moved to Bucharest, as a student at the University, in the Faculty of Psychology, which he graduated, becoming a graduate in psychology.

He was a lover of protest and had an acid wit. Sterian represented an artistic segment not found in the whole Romanian music landscape. Irony and cynicism characterized him, not shying away from constantly criticizing in his songs the human lack of orientation of contemporary society, injustice, the musical and critical underproduction of the time or the horrors of the Cold War.

Throughout his work he collaborated with important Romanian musicians such as Dan Andrei Aldea, Alexandru Andrieș, Nicu Alifantis, Doru Stănculescu, Mircea Bodolan and Maria Gheorghiu. He has played on the same stage with famous names like Joan Baez and Cliff Richard and has supported many young folk, rock and pop musicians. Emil Constantinescu said about Valeriu Sterian that he was a man who understood the way things were going earlier than others and made it public to everyone.

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People remember him, especially because of his best-known song, “Remembrance with Haiduci” from 1975. One of the most popular songs of Romanian folk music and dealing with a theme specific to the Romanian people, “Amintire cu haiduci” has been taken up over time by many artists in the folk world and beyond. The song can frequently be heard in club concerts.

Valeriu Sterian, arrested for manslaughter

Vali was attracted to foreign languages, so he began corresponding with young people in England and France. They would send him Beatles albums, something forbidden during the Ceausescu era. That’s why his father was called in to give statements to the Securitate.

In the spring of 1971, shortly before the end of the 12th grade, he was expelled from high school for two weeks for singing Beatles songs at a festival-competition. His father was then recalled to the Securitate. Vali locked himself in his room and shouted, “Come, Lord, see what’s left of the people!”. This cry of rage and pain from a young man who was asked to stop being himself became the refrain of one of his most famous and important works, ‘Nights’.

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Valeriu Sterian, archive image

In 1975, when Adrian Păunescu was starting Cenaclul Flacăra, Vali Sterian, together with the most important folk and rock artists of the time, joined the Cenacl. He left Cenaclul Flacăra in the early 1980s, considering it a “populist movement”.

Valeriu has been married since 1976 to Lucia Sterian, a psychologist by profession, and together they have a son. Their son, Oliver, is the drummer of Voltaj.

In 1999, he was involved in a tragic car accident. On Bd. Gheorghe Magheru, in the centre of the capital, two people died on the spot and Valeriu Sterian was charged with manslaughter and driving a car under the influence of alcohol. He was arrested, but was released from custody after a month and is now considered to be free to be investigated. The trial never took place due to the death of the defendant and the case remains unsolved.

Life was not kind to him. He died in Bucharest, shortly before his 48th birthday, losing his battle with cancer.

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