Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia dies at 66

Adrienne White looks back at the life of Paco de Lucia

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World-renowned Spanish guitarist Paco de Lucia has died aged 66 in Mexico, reportedly of a heart attack while playing with his children on a beach.

The death of one of the most celebrated flamenco guitarists was announced by the mayor's office in Algeciras, southern Spain, where he was born.

He is said to have died in the Mexican resort of Cancun.

Famous for a series of flamenco albums in the 1970s, he also crossed over into classical and jazz guitar.

He also worked on films by Spanish director Carlos Saura, notably appearing in his 1983 version of Carmen, which won a UK Bafta award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1985.

Algeciras is to hold two days of official mourning. Its mayor, Jose Ignacio Landaluce, called the musician's death an "irreparable loss for the world of culture and for Andalusia".

He had lived both in Mexico and in Spain in recent years.

Paying tribute to a "very special musician", fellow Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco Pena, 71, told BBC Radio 4's Front Row: "Once in a while someone comes along in a musical discipline who changes everything, who sees things that others have not seen up to that point, and Paco de Lucia was one of these people.

"After him, flamenco radically changed and the proof is that so many young people have taken his lead and now flamenco is full of that virtuosity."

'I knew every rhythm'

He was born Francisco Sanchez Gomez on 21 December 1947, the son of flamenco guitarist Antonio Sanchez, who was of Gypsy origin. He took his stage name in honour of his mother, Lucia Gomes.

Meeting Paco de Lucia

I discovered flamenco and Paco de Lucia with [the singer] Camaron de la Isla in the 1970s, thanks to my flamenco-playing cousin. His music and flamenco have been a constant companion and inspiration throughout my life.

I recall managing to get backstage at a London concert of Paco where we compared fingernails (he didn't believe I was a classical guitarist) and I told him how I thought his interpretation of the Concierto de Aranjuez was the best.

I remember my knees were shaking, I was so excited about meeting him. He thanked me and muttered under his breath that Narciso Yepes thought it was "folkloric" (a common classical guitarist put-down of flamencos).

For me, as for the vast majority of my contemporaries, Paco was, is and forever will be the ultimate flamenco guitarist. As a classical guitarist (retired), for me he also became simply the world's greatest guitarist regardless of genre, and one of the world's best composers for guitar.

It is believed he had played the guitar from the age of five.

"My family grew up with the Gypsies," the guitarist was quoted as saying in a 1994 article in Guitar Player.

"My father and all my brothers played guitar, so before I picked it up, before I could speak, I was listening. Before I started to play, I knew every rhythm of the flamenco. I knew the feeling and the meaning of the music, so when I started to play, I went directly to the sound I had in my ear."

At the age of 18 he recorded his first album in Madrid.

One of the great musical partnerships of his life was with the singer Camaron de la Isla, who died in 1992. The two men recorded albums in the 1970s, which inspired a New Flamenco movement.

In 2004, Paco de Lucia was awarded Spain's prestigious Asturias Prize for Art as the "most universal of flamenco artists".

The jury said at the time: "His style has been a beacon for young generations and his art has made him into one of the best ambassadors of Spanish culture in the world."

Among those he worked with outside Spain was British guitarist John McLaughlin.

News of his death became the top trend among Spanish users of Twitter. "Rest in peace," wrote one tweeter. "You'll teach the angels to play guitar!"

"One of my heroes died today," wrote another. "One of the best musicians ever."

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Your memories
Profile picture of Christian Bouic Musician Christian Bouic: "I will miss him"

I am a musician with affiliations to the flamenco world, so it was with shock and great sadness to hear from a colleague of Paco de Lucia's passing away this morning. Myself and many colleagues were influenced by the 'storm' right from the onset of Paco's popularity surge in Spain, well before it became worldwide, as we were part of a London flamenco community at the time. And so his influence on our lives was as great, if not far greater than those who might have been influenced by Pink Floyd or Queen. I will miss him. Rest in peace, with unending thanks for making so many happy times in our lives. Christian Bouic, London, UK

I make flamenco guitars in Portland, Oregon. I had an opportunity to have one of my clients recently visit with Paco de Lucia. Yes, he has played hundreds of concerts, yet, he has retained the enthusiasm, the charisma, of a person who looks beyond the glitz of the stage. Maestro Paco de Lucia was a true artist! I am privileged to have had one of my guitars in his hands. Peter Tsiorba, Portland, Oregon, USA

I saw Paco play in Toronto and it was a high point in my life. His artistry, his skill, his feeling, his originality in the flamenco form inspired me and countless others to take up the flamenco guitar and try to play it ourselves, to express ourselves and life through the Spanish blues. Christopher Black, Ontario, Canada

Start Quote

Every inch a musical genius, and a gentleman in the bargain”

End Quote Kitka, Shenzhen, China

I saw Paco De Lucia many years ago in Seville and was mesmerized by his playing. Camaron de la Isla was in the audience and was so moved that he joined Paco on stage for a few songs. The musical world has lost a great performer whose skill in the flamenco style will probably never be matched. May his music continue to inspire and bring joy and entertainment to the world. He was certainly an icon. We lost a great one. Mitch Million, Sanford, NC, USA

His music made my hair stand on end. Listening to Entre Dos Aguas got me playing again so I have lots to thank him for. Attending a live performance was one of life's privileges. Nigel Sudlow, Leamington Spa, UK

I live with flamenco music, actually with Maestro Paco de Lucias's albums since I was 17. Now I'm 43. He was and will be forever the only reason for my love for flamenco music. I saw him for the last time in Belgrade in 2012. In the end I can only say 'muchas gracias grande maestro Paco. Bore Videvski, Veles, Republic of Macedonia

I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with this extraordinary artist in Seoul, Korea in the 1990s, after a concert he did with John McLaughlin and Al DiMeola. And yes, of course it was as insanely brilliant as the trio's incendiary recordings, only live. Paco de Lucia - every inch a musical genius, and a gentleman in the bargain. Kitka, Shenzhen, China

Paco de Lucia performs at The Royal Festival Hall Martyn Strange: "I was invited to take photos"

I discovered Paco back in the early 1970s. When I first heard his guitar playing it left me breathless. Here was a music that had 'this is life' stamped all over it and embedded deep within it. It was the skill of the artist that was putting it there. This is when my life-long love affair with duende began. I had the great good fortune to see him twice, once with his flamenco troupe and once with McLaughlin and de Meola. Both evenings remain in my heart to this day. It is not often in a lifetime that we are graced with an artist with the skill, heart and soul such as the one Paco carried. I for one will sadly miss him and his duende. Geoffrey smith, Copenhagen, Denmark

I was blessed to visit his five concerts during his tour in Croatia in 2012 and also had the privilege to meet him in person. Maestro gave to all aficionados and music lovers the best performance that guitar can give. Alongside Maestro Segovia, Spain and the world have lost the greatest guitar music ambassador. Whenever you hear angels handclapping be sure that Maestro is playing his guitar somewhere. Ratko Bajakic, Zagreb, Croatia

I was privileged enough to be invited to his concert at The Royal Festival Hall in 2012 to take photos. I feel that the photos I took captured him in a very special moment. The performance was immense. Martyn Strange, London, UK

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