RIP: Flamenco Giant Paco de Lucia

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Paco de Lucia: 1947 – 2014 (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Paco de Lucia, a giant of flamenco, has died of a sudden heart attack. He passed away yesterday while on vacation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico with his children. He had several homes, both in Spain, Mexico, and other places.  He was 66.

“Paco lived as he wished and died playing with his children beside the sea,” a statement offered by the de Lucia family in Spain.

Like the famous flamenco singer Camaron de la Isla, with whom Paco made 10 unforgettable albums, de Lucia was an experimenter with other styles of music, including rock and jazz. Paco was born Francisco Sanchez Gomez in December 21, 1947. Though not born a gitano, he was recognized by all flamenco artists and aficionados as one of flamenco’s greatest and the greatest guitarist of them all. He was born in Algeciras in southwestern Spain in the ancient province of Cadiz. He took the stage name Paco de Lucia after his mother Lucia. His father was a strict disciplinarian who made young Paco practice 12 hours a day, every day, to pave the way for a successful career in music. His father even pulled Paco out of school to focus solely on guitar. Paco once commented that he learned the guitar like a child learns to speak. The father-son discipleship has been been compared to that of  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his father, Leopold Mozart.

In 1958, Paco made his first radio appearance on Radio Algeciras.  He was 11 years old. A year later, he was awarded a special prize at the Festival Concurso International Flamenco de Jerez de la Frontera, the heartland of flamenco gypsy culture and a competition that is the Tchaikovsky competition for flamenco artists.

Similar to Ravi Shankar,  tango master Astor Piazzolla, or jazz greats Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Paco de Lucia modernized and actually revolutionized flamenco and made it popular worldwide.  A new genre, nuevo flamenco, was created because of his pioneering music. One popular albums that introduced his music to a general audience was  Passion, Grace & Fire with John McLaughlin and Al Dimeola (1983).  He recorded over 30 albums. His last album Cositas Buenas was issued in 2004.

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Here’s a beautiful 1970’s video of Camaron de la Isla and Paco de Lucia with a nice spoken introduction by Paco.

p.s. I also wanted to include Marco Werman’s feature and interview from today’s Global Hit feature on PRI’s The World: