PacoPaco de Lucía, (born Francisco Gustavo Sánchez Gomes, December 21, 1947–February 25, 2014), flamenco guitarist.

Paco de Lucía was born into a musical family in the port city of Algeciras, Spain. His father was a guitarist and gave instruction to him as a child. His stage name (lit. Lucía’s [son]) followed him from childhood, where it identified him amidst a number of other children named Paco in his neighborhood. In addition to his father, he was influenced by his older brother, Ramón de Algeciras, and the two established flamenco masters of the guitar: Niño Ricardo and Sabicas. After winning an international flamenco competition at the age of 12, de Lucía began a recording and performing career that would span five decades.

He recorded several duet albums, first with guitarists Ricardo Modrega and later his brother, Ramón, then in a series of recordings with vocalist Camarón de la Isla. During the 1970’s, he gave a number of historic performances, including the first flamenco performance at Madrid’s Teatro Real, a concert with Carlos Santana in Barcelona, and an appearance on the BBC. He also recorded two of his best known pieces, “Entre Dos Aguas” and “Rio Ancho”.

Guitar trio with Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin

Guitar trio with Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin

His participation in the Guitar Trio with jazz musicians Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin brought increased exposure in the United States, especially from the landmark recording Friday Night in San Francisco. He also worked frequently with jazz pianist Chick Corea. During this time, he also formed a sextet which included his older brother Ramón on guitar and young brother, Pepe de Lucía on vocals. De Lucía also starred in and provided the music for Carlos Saura’s film Carmen, a flamenco ballet version of the Bizet opera.

In addition to his experiments with acoustic jazz, de Lucía also explored classical music, recording Joaquín Rodrigo’s famous Concierto de Aranjuez in the presence of the composer, along with flamenco interpretations of the music of Isaac Albéniz and Manuel de Falla.

De Lucía was honored with a Grammy Award, the 2004 Prince of Asturias Arts Award and honorary doctorates from the University of Cádiz and the Berklee College of Music. His compositions and playing technique, with the guitar placed over his crossed right leg, revolutionized flamenco and brought it to the forefront of the international music scene. He also introduced the South American cajón drum to flamenco and made it an integral part of the music.

De Lucía’s sudden death from a heart attack in Mexico at age 66 was a shock to the musical world and tributes poured in from musicians such as Carlos Santana, Julio & Enrique Iglesias, Al Di Meola, and fellow flamenco guitarist Tomatito. Chick Corea said on Twitter that “Paco inspired me in the construction of my own musical world as much as Miles Davis and John Coltrane.” De Lucía was the greatest Spanish guitarist since Andrés Segovia. He leaves behind one final album that is scheduled to be released in April.

“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.”

– John McLaughlin

Visit the official Paco de Lucía website here.

On a personal note, I first became aware of Paco, like many others, through his work with Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Chick Corea. Shortly after, I had the opportunity to see Saura’s Carmen at a little art house theater during my college days in Missoula, MT. Paco’s incredible score and Antonio Gade’s mesmerizing flamenco dancing had a profound impact on me as a musician. The things that my professors had been trying to teach me about shaping a musical line, (which I had up to this point been unable to grasp), came alive visually on-screen and I had a rare moment of spiritual and artistic clarity that continues to inspire me. Like many others, I continue to regard him as one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived. Descansa en paz.