Paco de Lucía, the brilliant guitarist who pioneered the fusion of flamenco and jazz, died aged 66 from a suspected heart attack. The world-renowned flamenco guitarist was playing at the beach with his children in the Mexican resort of Cancun, when he suddenly felt ill. According to a close friend, he died on his way to hospital.
The native of Algeciras (Cádiz), whose real name was Francisco Sanchez Gomez, was the son of flamenco guitarist Antonio Sanchez, who was of Gypsy origin. He took his stage name in honour of his mother, Lucia Gomes.
The musician was a globally admired artist who won the 2004 Prince of Asturias Award for his tireless exploration of the possibilities of flamenco. He will also be remembered for his association with the late flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla during the 1960s and 70s.
De Lucía’s rumba Entre Dos Aguas (Between Two Waters, 1973) became a very popular recording in Spain. Towards the end of the 70s De Lucía delivered further surprises to the flamenco world when he collaborated in an acoustic summit with the guitarists John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell – both already lauded as superstars of electric jazz fusion – known as the Guitar Trio. A later version of the trio included Al Di Meola, with whom De Lucía had collaborated on the album Elegant Gypsy (1977).
Paying tribute to a “very special musician”, fellow Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco Peña, 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”.
De Lucía also incorporated blues, Indian music, salsa, bossa nova and Arabic music into his own sound. His performances at the Teatro Real opera house in Madrid helped blur the border between high-brow and popular music.
The musician had been living in Palma de Mallorca for several years, although he also spent periods in Cuba and the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. Those who knew him back in Mallorca say he had been less keen about playing the guitar of late. De Lucía preferred to spend time with regular people rather than join intellectual and artistic circles. He also devoted a lot of his time to his two young children. The city of Algeciras has decreed three days of mourning and will assist the family in bringing the body home.