Paco de Lucía is indisputably the greatest living flamenco guitarist. He belongs high in the pantheon that includes his mentors, Niño Ricardo and Sabicas, as well as Mario Escudero and Ramón Montoya, the "father" of the modern flamenco guitar.

He was born Francisco Sanchez Gomez in Algeciras, Spain on December 21st, 1947. His first teacher was his father, Antonio Sanchez, a laborer who played guitar at night in order to supplement the family income.

He made his first public appearance in 1958 at the age of eleven, and by fourteen he was touring with the famous flamenco ambassador José Greco. It was during his three years with Greco that de Lucía met Sabicas, the illustrious modern master who encouraged the young guitarist to follow his muse, a somewhat revolutionary piece of advice for an artist whose extremely traditional form depends on complete assimilation of all that has gone before.

By 1969, in his second album, Fantasia Flamenca, de Lucía proved that his gifts were almost too much for the flamenco world to contain. Although he evidenced enormous respect for the role of the guitarist in flamenco--"in flamenco the guitarist first and foremost must not get in the way of the singer," he said, accurately--it was clear that de Lucía heard something more in his instrument. He began an experimental phase of his career that really never ended, alienating many purists by including flute, bass, drums, and even a saxophone in his ensemble

Paco de Lucía's regard for jazz is well known. He recorded with Chick Corea, Larry Coryell, and--most famously--with John McLaughlin and Al DiMeola in a trio of albums, Castro Marin, Passion Grace and Fire, and Friday Night in San Francisco.

His experiments in form continue up to the present, and despite protests now and again from the flamenco world, which often has difficulty welcoming its prodigal sons back into the fold, de Lucía insists:

"I have never lost my roots in my music, because I would lose myself. What I have tried to do is have a hand holding onto tradition and the other scratching and digging in other places, trying to find new things I can bring into flamenco. I am a flamenco guitarist. If I tried to play anything else it would still sound like flamenco."

Paco de Lucía's fruitful collaboration over sixteen years with the godhead flamenco singer Camerón de la Isla proves conclusively that he is, indeed, a flamenco guitarist first and foremost. If a new listener could buy only one flamenco recording in order to experience what is most excellent in this gypsy art, Soy Caminante (1974, Polygram Iberica, S.A. Madrid, featuring Camerón, Paco and Paco's brother, Ramon de Algeciras) would be that recording.

"The music (is) around you, made by people you see, the people you make music with. You learn it from your family, from your friends, in la juerga (the party) drinking. And then you work on technique. Guitarists don't need to study. And as it is with any music, the great ones will spend some time working with the young players who show special talent. You must understand that a Gypsy's life is a life of anarchy. That is the reason the way of flamenco music is a way without discipline as you know it. We don't try to organize things with our minds, we don't go to school to find out. We just live. Music is everywhere in our lives."

--Paco de Lucía

Addendum: The master died on February 26, 2014, of a heart attack while on vacation in the Caribbean resort town of Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

A statement by his family, published in Spanish newspapers, said “Paco lived as he wished, and died playing with his children beside the sea.”

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