World renowned guitarist Paco de Lucia who was possibly the most famous flamenco exponent, passed away at the age of 66. He had suffered from a heart attack while he was on vacation at the Caribbean resort town of Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo, Mexico. He died on the beach after playing with his children. He was born into a musical family as Francisco Sanchez Gomez, the youngest of five children in Algeciras, Spain a city in Cadiz province off the southwestern coast. His father Antonio Sanchez, was of gypsy descent and was a flamenco guitarist who played in the evenings for extra money when he was off from work as a laborer. In such a household where flamenco was an obsession, de Lucia would claim that he had the learned music “before I could speak,” and was five when he started playing the guitar.
Under rigorous training from his father, who insisted that his children got skilled enough to become world-famous professional musicians, the young de Lucia sometimes practiced for twelve hours a day as a child and had temporarily withdrawn out of school to focus on his music. The hard work would pay off and at the age of eleven, the young de Lucia would have his first public performance for Radio Algeciras. Once he began touring as a teenager, he would take on his stage name in honor of his mother who was of Portuguese descent. At the age of eighteen, de Lucia recorded his first album in Madrid.
It was during the nineteen seventies when de Lucia’s music albums enjoyed enormous commercial and critical success. His 1972 release El duende flamenco de Paco de Lucia, consisted only of musical pieces composed by him. It is still considered to be a groundbreaking album for flamenco music. In the following year, de Lucia enjoyed one of his biggest commercial hits with the 1973 rumba Entre Dos. This was from the album Fuente Y Caudal which he co-wrote with José Torregrosa. Many critics believe that this was the first album that took flamenco music much beyond its traditional form and introduced nuevo flamenco to the world. These two albums would solidify de Lucia’s reputation as a composer.Paco de Lucia became famous as a young man and maintained his stature as an iconic flamenco guitarist until he passed away in an untimely manner.
Jazz music would turn out to be a very important influence and fascination for de Lucia. He would hold hi tech jazz musicians such as Coryell, Di Meola, Core and McLaughlin, with the same reverence he had for his flamenco mentors such as Niño Ricardo and Sabitas. After a music career that lasted almost six decades, Paco de Lucia would become not only the world’s premier and most famous flamenco guitarist but also Spain’s greatest musical export. In later years, he would state in interviews that his success was entirely the result of his family background and training. Citing his mixed gypsy heritage as an important influence and inspiration that helped him modernize the gypsy guitar tradition he said “The gypsies are better since they listen to music from birth. If I had not been born in my father’s house I would be nobody. I don’t believe in spontaneous genius.”
He was quoted to have “filled this world with beauty” by his surviving family. For his fans, the legend of Paco de Lucia shall be enshrined by flamenco music lovers over the world and for lovers of guitar music across genres, he was a pioneering guitarist whose music shall live long after he passed away.
By Unni K. Nair