Paco de Lucia, who has been described as “one of history’s greatest guitarists”, has died aged 66.
The son of a flamenco guitarist he was born Francisco Sanchez Gomez in Algeciras in south east Spain.
He was in Mexico where he had lived for five years in the late 1990s relaxing on the beach on holiday with members of his family when he suffered a heart attack.
Mexican authorities said he had died in a hospital where he had been taken after complaining of pains in his chest.
The mayor of Algeciras has decreed two days of official mourning in memory of the musician who took the genre of flamenco – the traditional gypsy music of Spain beyond the borders of his homeland.
He was introduced to the guitar at an early age by his father who imposed a strict regime on his son forcing him to practice up to 12 hours a day every day to ensure he would find success as a professional musician.
It paid off and de Lucia became a world renowned figure not just for his genius playing flamenco but he was also influential in classical and jazz circles while he gained recognition as a producer and composer as well.
Eric Clapton referred to de Lucia as “a titanic figure in the world of flamenco guitar”.
De Lucia himself said: “With the guitar I’ve suffered a great deal, but when I’ve had a good time, the suffering seemed worthwhile.”
His albums such as “El Duende Flamenco de Paco de Lucia” and “Almoraima” reinvented traditional flamenco.
He toured extensively with well-known international artists and played with the likes of Carlos Santana and Al Di Meola, happy to expand flamenco rhythms into jazz, although that upset flamenco purists.
“It has been said, and rightly so, that Paco de Lucia has never been surpassed by anyone and guitar playing today would not be understood without his revolutionary figure,” Spain’s arts association SGAE said in a statement.
De Lucia went on to record flamenco jazz fusion with Di Meola and John McLaughlin in a series of now legendary concerts, and also recorded with Chick Corea.
He was highly acclaimed after playing Joaquin de Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” at London’s Festival Hall in 1991, attended by the composer himself, and considered one of the best interpretations of the piece.
De Lucia memorised the piece by ear as he did not read music and gave it a distinctive flamenco flavour.