Guitarist Paco de Lucía Dies at 66
Paco de Lucía, the celebrated Spanish flamenco guitarist who revitalized the genre with frequent crossover forays into jazz, classical and popular music, died Feb. 25 at age 66. He apparently suffered a heart attack while spending time with his family on a beach in Cancun, Mexico, according to a statement released by a spokesperson for de Lucía’s hometown of Algeciras, Spain.
De Lucía is best known among jazz listeners for his work with John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola. The three guitarists toured as a trio and released the critically acclaimed albums Friday Night In San Francisco (1981) and Passion, Grace & Fire (1983) on the Columbia label. Prior to that, he appeared on the tune “Mediterranean Sundance” from Di Meola’s 1977 electric LP Elegant Gypsy (Columbia).
Di Meola posted this message on his Facebook page on Feb. 26: “My dear friend has passed and we will never forget his important legacy. My years with Paco were amazing and unforgettable! I will miss him terribly.”
McLaughlin issued the following statement: “Paco was a real man. Real in the sense of true; to himself, to his music and to everyone else. A man in that he was passionate, but had true compassion and deep understanding of the human condition. All this was revealed in his music and in his marvelous guitar playing. To have worked and played music with him is one the greatest blessings in my life. To say I will miss him is an understatement. In the place where he lived in my heart, there is now an emptiness that will stay with me till I join him.”
Born Francisco Sánchez Gómez on Dec. 21, 1947, the guitarist took his stage name in honor of his mother, Lucía Gomes. He worked early in his career with flamenco dancer José Greco and later toured with his older brother Ramón, also backing flamenco dancers. De Lucía went on to perform and record with flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla as a duo for an extended period during the 1960s and ’70s; their partnership inspired a movement known as New Flamenco. De Lucía formed his own sextet in the 1980s.
In addition to his trio appearances with Di Meola and McLaughlin, de Lucía collaborated with such jazz artists as guitarist Larry Coryell and pianist Chick Corea. He received some criticism for experimenting with the rich flamenco tradition, but he never lost sight of his roots. “I cannot do with flamenco all that I should like because then it loses its identity,” he said in an article that appeared in the November 1985 issue of DownBeat. “Flamenco is a very old music. It cannot evolve as quickly as, say, jazz can evolve. It has to be a very slow evolution. So I am trying to introduce new things—my feelings and thoughts—but I don’t want to lose the tradition, that sound. Flamenco is really a sound more than a music. It’s a feeling, an expression. So you can put in the qualities you like, but you have to take care of that message, that sound.”
De Lucía received Latin Grammys for his 2012 live recording En Vivo Conciertos España 2010 (Emarcy) and his 2004 studio album Cositas Buenas (Blue Thumb).