Spanish guitar legend Paco de Lucía dies

The Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía has died aged 66 of a heart attack while on holiday in Mexico with his family, according to official sources in his home town of Algeciras in Andalucia.

Spanish guitar legend Paco de Lucía dies
Paco de Lucía became famous for playing with the singer Camarón de la Isla in the 1970s. File photo: José Luis Roca/AFP

The famous musician is reported to have been playing with his children on the beach in Cancún, where he owns a property, when he suffered a fatal heart attack on Wednesday morning.

Sources say that he was taken to hospital but died before arrival.

Born Francisco Sanchez Gomez, the flamenco giant was credited with modernizing the Spanish gypsy tradition with jazz and bossa nova influences during a decades-long career.

Algeciras mayor Jose Ignacio Landaluce called his death an “irreparable loss for the world of culture and for Andalusia,” Spanish media reported, as the town declared an official mourning period.

Born of humble origins in the southern Spanish region on December 21, 1947, Paco de Lucia rose into a musical giant who blended jazz, pop and classical influences with the folk tradition of flamenco.

He credited his father, a singer of gypsy origin, with introducing him to music.

“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 once said.

“My father made me play guitar when I was little,” he explained in his book: “Paco de Lucia: A new tradition for the flamenco guitar”.

From the age of just 12 de Lucia was playing and earning at flamenco “tablaos” in usually intimate, smoky venues.

By 15 he had graduated to making recordings in Madrid and by 18 he had brought out a first album.

He became famous for playing with the singer Camarón de la Isla in the 1970s.

The innovative guitarist also performed with colleagues John McLaughlin and Al di Meola in the famous 1981 Friday Night in San Francisco concert — which went on to become what is considered one of the the most influential acoustic guitar albums of all time. 

Paco de Lucía performs with John McLaughlin and Al di Meola.

In 2004, he was awarded Spain's prestigious Asturias Prize for Art as the “most universal of flamenco artists”.

“His style has been a beacon for young generations and his art has made him into one of the best ambassadors of Spanish culture in the world,” the jury said at the time.

Paco de Lucia based himself for many years in Mexico, but in later years had returned to Toledo, a small city outside Madrid.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Meet the Spanish rapper bringing flamenco and bossa nova into hip-hop

Spanish rapper C. Tangana was taking a big risk when he started mixing old-fashioned influences like flamenco and bossa nova into his hip-hop -- but it's this eclectic sound that has turned him into a phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic.

Meet the Spanish rapper bringing flamenco and bossa nova into hip-hop
Spanish rapper Anton Alvarez known as 'C. Tangana' poses in Madrid on April 29, 2021. Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP

The 30-year-old has emerged as one of the world’s biggest Spanish-language stars since his third album “El Madrileno” — the Madrilenian — came out in February. That ranks him alongside his superstar ex-girlfriend Rosalia, the Grammy-winning Catalan singer with whom he has co-written several hits.

C. Tangana, whose real name is Anton Alvarez Alfaro, has come a long way since a decade ago when he became known as a voice of disillusioned Spanish youth in the wake of the financial crisis.These days his rap is infused with everything from reggaeton and rumba to deeply traditional styles from Spain and Latin America, with a voice often digitised by autotune.

“It’s incredible that just when my music is at its most popular is exactly when I’m doing something a bit more complex, more experimental and less
trendy,” he told AFP in an interview.

And he is unashamed to be appealing to a wider audience than previously: his dream is now to make music “that a young person can enjoy in a club or someone older can enjoy at home while cooking”.

‘People are tired’

The rapper, who sports a severe semi-shaved haircut and a pencil moustache, has worked with Spanish flamenco greats including Nino De Elche, Antonio Carmona, Kiko Veneno, La Hungara and the Gipsy Kings.

In April he brought some of them together for a performance on NPR’s popular “Tiny Desk Concert” series, which has already drawn nearly six million
views on YouTube.

Shifting away from trap, one of rap’s most popular sub-genres, and venturing into a more traditional repertoire was a dangerous move — especially for someone with a young fanbase to whom rumba, bossa nova and bolero sound old-fashioned.

“I think people are tired. They’ve had enough of the predominant aesthetic values that have previously defined pop and urban music,” he said.

Parts of his latest album were recorded in Latin America with Cuban guitarist Eliades Ochoa of Buena Vista Social Club, Uruguayan
singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler, Mexican folk artist Ed Maverick and Brazil’s Toquinho, one of the bossa nova greats.

“What struck me most everywhere I went was the sense of tradition and the way people experienced the most popular music, and I don’t mean pop,” he said.

A new direction

C. Tangana started out in 2006 rapping under the name Crema. When the global economic crisis swept Spain a few years later, hard-hitting trap was
the perfect way to voice the angst of his generation. But after more than a decade of rapping, things changed.

“When I was heading for my 30s, I hit this crisis, I was a bit fed up with what I was doing… and decided to give voice to all these influences that I
never dared express as a rapper,” he said.

The shift began in 2018 with “Un veneno” (“A poison”) which came out a year after his big hit “Mala mujer” (“Bad woman”).

And there was a return to the sounds of his childhood when he used to listen to Spanish folk songs at home, raised by a mother who worked in
education and a journalist father who liked to play the guitar. The Latin American influences came later.

“It started when I was a teenager with reggaeton and with bachata which were played in the first clubs I went to, which were mostly Latin,” he said.

Studying philosophy at the time, he wrote his first raps between stints working in call centres or fast-food restaurants.

As to what comes next, he doesn’t know. But one thing he hopes to do is collaborate with Natalia Lafourcade, a Mexican singer who dabbles in folk, rock and pop — another jack of all musical trades.