Paco de Lucia, Spanish Flamenco-Guitar Virtuoso, Dies at 66

Francisco Sanchez Gomez, the Spanish guitarist better known as Paco de Lucia, who crossed over into jazz and classical music to take his flamenco style to a global audience, has died. He was 66.

He died today after suffering a heart attack on a beach in Cancun, Mexico, according to a spokesman for the mayor of Algeciras, the artist’s home city in Spain. Michael Stein, de Lucia’s agent for bookings in Europe, the U.S., Asia and Africa, confirmed his death.

De Lucia recorded more than 30 albums and collaborated with contemporary artists such as Ricardo Modrego, Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Bryan Adams, according to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate in music in 2010. He also worked with the flamenco singer Camaron de la Isla and recorded Joaquin Rodrigo’s classical “Concierto de Aranjuez.” In 2012, he won a Latin Grammy award for “En Vivo Conciertos Espana 2010” in the Best Flamenco Album category.

“I have never lost my roots in my music because I would lose myself,” he said, according to the website of Verve Music Group, his record label. “What I have tried to do is have a hand holding onto tradition and the other scratching and also digging in other places trying to find new things I can bring into flamenco.”

Mixed Influences

De Lucia will be remembered as an ambassador for flamenco who helped develop the style by mixing in different influences and taking the form to a global audience, said Stein, who had worked with the guitarist since 1987.

“We want to be at the side of his family members and friends, showing the support of a city that weeps for the most international of its sons and the greatest figure that the world of the guitar has seen,” Mayor Jose Ignacio Landaluce said in a statement posted on the city hall website. The city plans three days of mourning, according to the website.

Francisco Sanchez Gomez was born on Dec. 21, 1947, in Algeciras on the Bay of Gibraltar. His father, Antonio Sanchez, was a laborer by day who supplemented his income by playing guitar at night. Francisco adopted his stage name in honor of his Portuguese mother, Lucia Gomez, according to Verve Music.

His first performance was on Radio Algeciras in 1958 at age 11 and he toured the U.S. with Jose Greco’s dance company while still a teenager. After recording his first album, “Los Chiquitos de Algeciras” with his brother Pepe in 1961, he began to develop his own style and made his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1970. He later worked with guitarist Larry Coryell, pianist Chick Corea, and with Di Meola and McLaughlin, who formed the Guitar Trio with de Lucia and reunited for an album that reached No. 1 on Billboard’s jazz-album chart in 1996.

“The greatest guitarist in the history of flamenco has gone,” Jose Merce, a flamenco singer, said in comments broadcast by state broadcaster RTVE today.

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