A salute to Paco de Lucia

The world has lost one of its greatest guitar legends. On 26 February 2013 Paco de Lucia died of a heart attack while on holiday in Mexico.I count him as one of my guitar influences and his music never stopped amazing me and inspiring me.

Paco de Lucia was born Francisco Sanchez Gomez in 1947 and was exposed to the flamenco culture in his home of Andalusia,  in southern Spain. His father and two of his brothers were flamenco musicians. This inspired him to take up the guitar at a very young age. His first public performance was at age 11, his first record at 15.

Traditional flamenco is a singer’s art in which the guitar usually takes an accompanying role. In the late 60s, Paco de Lucia met Jose Monge Cruz, who called himself Camarón de la Isla. The two shook up the world of traditional flamenco by pushing the boundaries of the voice-and-guitar combination as far as they could. 

Francisco became Paco and he used his mother’s maiden name for his performances. While still performing with Camarón de la Isla, he released his first recording as a soloist, Entre Dos Aguas, which made it to the Spanish Charts.

Traditionalists have sometimes raised their eyebrows over De Lucia’s use of non gypsy influences in his music (a.0 jazz). At the same time it attracted the attention of jazz guitarists like , John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell with who he had a trio.

Coryell was later replaced by Al Di Meola. Through these trios he was able to explore and play a wider range of music without traditionalists breathing down his neck.

Paco de Lucia was by then a full-blown superstar, a guitar hero and went on to create a style that pushed the music forward and influenced an entire generation of flamenco musicians. His music could be described as flamenco infused with other influences without losing the heart, philosophy, or identity of the music.

A beautiful documentary about his life and music is “Shade and Light.” A hard working, humble genius!

Two of my personal favorite videos are the “Leverkusener Jazztage 2010 concert”  and the Montreux Jazz Festival Concert of 2012.

 Your body may have died but your Spirit will live forever. May you Rest in Peace. 

And for those who would like to learn more about Paco de Lucia’s incredible style and approach, I can heartily recommend you to go and visit or sign up for some lessons with Ruben Diaz, teacher and trusted adviser at Contemporary Guitar Studio.

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