Paco de Lucia, the influential Spanish guitarist who vastly expanded the international audience for flamenco and merged it with other musical styles, died suddenly on Wednesday of a heart attack in Mexico.
The 66-year-old virtuoso, as happy playing seemingly impossible syncopated flamenco rhythms as he was improvising jazz or classical guitar, helped to legitimize flamenco in Spain itself at a time when it was shunned by the mainstream.
I learned the guitar like a child learns to speak," the guitarist said in a 2012 documentary.
Born Francisco Sanchez Gomez, he became famous in the 1970s after recording bestselling album Entre Dos Aguas", becoming the first flamenco musician to perform at Madrid's opera house Teatro Real in 1975.
Paco's 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.