Francisco Sanchez Gomes, internationally known as Paco de Lucia, was one of the greatest flamenco guitarists. He has passed away at the age of 66. The gifted performer transformed music and influenced musicians around the globe with his flamenco guitar. He was an innovator with his blend of technique and flamenco rhythms. Artists worldwide, including Carlos Santana and Alejandro Sanz, have paid homage to the guitarist via social media. He will be laid to rest over the weekend in his native home of Algeciras with masses expected to attend a public wake in the Andalusian city.
De Lucia got his start in 1958, when he performed on Radio Algeciras at 11 years old. Three years later, he began touring with the master of flamenco, Jose Greco and his dance troupe. While on tour in the United States, Paco de Lucia was introduced to the Romani flamenco guitarist, Sabicas. He encouraged the young de Lucia to find his own individual style. De Lucia took Sabicas’ advice to heart, and by 1970, he made his first appearance at Carnegie Hall.
Part of de Lucia’s ability was to appreciate that, in flamenco, there is a dialogue between the singer and the dancer. As there are no set songs intrinsically, the “guitarist follows the call of the singer” and supports them. For him, flamenco was more of a lifestyle than an occupation. “I literally lived it,” de Lucia once told the Associated Press.
Although he was surrounded by flamenco early in life, he did not professionally study music. De Lucia was never taught “harmony or canons,” but flamenco was his passion, and by the age of 18, de Lucia recorded his first album.
Albeit de Lucia did not have formal training, his technique and agility across the strings was extraordinary. In 2004, de Lucia told El Pais newspaper that without technique, “you lose the freedom to create.” With his remarkable skills, Paco de Lucia breathed new life into traditional flamenco, something that did not sit well with flamenco purists. However, even with cynics, the adept guitarist has been praised as one of the greatest for revitalizing flamenco with various musical influences such as salsa, jazz, and bossa nova.
He formed the Paco de Luca Sextet band in 1981 that included saxophone, bass, and cajón box drums. The band recorded three albums. He also worked on film soundtracks for Carmen, Borau’s La Sabina, and Los Tarantos, a ballet staged at Madrid’s Teatro de la Zarzuela.
Devotees and music reviewers applauded his unique and modern approach to the Andaluz music he grew up with. His most famous song, Entre dos Aquas (Between Two Waters), is one of the most identifiable Spanish classical guitar songs worldwide. In 2004, when Paco de Lucia accepted the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award, the presenter remarked, “everything can be expressed with the 6 chords of the guitar in Paco’s hands.”
Before his premature death, Mr. De Lucia was working on an album, Canciones Andaluzas, that was slated for release in April.
“The world has become an orphan,” the renowned Spanish rocker, Enrique Bunbury, told Billboard magazine, because it has lost “the art and soul” of a remarkable musician. It can be stated with conviction that Paco de Lucia was not only one of the greatest flamenco guitarists, but “undoubtedly a genius.”
By Dawn Levesque