Paco de Lucía, a master flamenco guitarist, died this Wednesday at age 66 in Mexican coastal town, Playa del Carmen.
Born Francisco Sánchez Gómez in Algeciras, Spain on Dec. 21, 1947 he won his first international flamenco competition when he was only 14 years old. Shortly thereafter he recorded his first album with his brother and adopted his stage name (which traces its roots back to Gypsy nicknames from his neighborhood).
His music, which mixed jazz and other genres to create a new, unique form of flamenco will be sorely missed. With Camarón de la Isla, a famous singer, the duo revived flamenco as it started to die out in the 1960-70s. Isla died in the 1992 but Lucía continued to perform for crowds of thousands well into his last years.
Lucía was famed for his ability to accentuate notes while strumming at the breakneck speed which marks flamenco music. Along with Isla, he released more than 10 records, a feat he chalked up to the increasing demand for music and new music from fans. He liked to say that such pressure helped him come up with new ideas and reimagine his music with different instruments and techniques.
However, even as he worked to add instruments (famously the Peruvian cajón which has since become a key element of flamenco music) he retained the familiar tones of flamenco music. He believed that flamenco music, although it needed to be modernized, should not stray far from its roots.
His family released a statement saying, “Paco lived as he wished and died playing with his children beside the sea.”