World-renowned Spanish guitarist Paco de Lucia has died aged 66, the mayor of his native Andalusian town has said. The musician was known for his distinct style incorporating jazz and classical elements into flamenco.
The mayor of de Lucia's southern hometown of Algeciras said Wednesday that de Lucia died of a heart attack in Mexico. He fell ill while on a beach with his child in Cancun, according to Spanish media.
"Paco de Lucia's death turns his genius into a legend," Mayor Jose Ignacio Landaluce said in a statement. "Although he is gone, his music, his wonderful way of playing and his character will always be with us."
Spanish Education and Culture Minister Jose Ignacio Wert described the guitarist as "a unique and unrepeatable figure."
Born Francisco Sanchez Gomez on December 21, 1947 to a humble family in the heart of Spain's flamenco country, de Lucia became one of the world's leading Flamenco artists. He wove jazz, pop and classical influences with the folk tradition.
Introduced to music by his father, a singer of gypsy origin, he became famous for dazzling audiences with his rapid flamenco rhythms and finger work.
"The gypsies are better since they listen to music from birth. If I had not been born into my father's house I would be nobody. I don't believe in spontaneous genius," de Lucia once said.
The guitarist formed a popular duo with the flamenco singing legend Cameron de la Isla in the 1960s and 70s. He made his international debut in 1973 with the hit "Entre dos Augas," which was one of the most popular recordings in Spain.
In 1981 he recorded one of his most famous songs, "Friday Night in San Francisco" with fellow guitarists John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola.
He also branched out into jazz and bosa nova later in his career, but always claimed to remain faithful to his flamenco origins.
De Lucia was awarded the Culture Ministry's Fine Arts Gold Medal in 1992. In 2004 he was given the prestigious Prince of Asturias Prize for the Arts as the "most universal of flamenco artists."
dr/hc (AFP, AP, dpa)