It’s a real challenge to write about Paco de Lucía because, although he’s a household name well beyond the realms of Flamenco, the range and variety of styles he has covered is so wide that it’s impossible to condense it all into one post. We are going to do our best, however, to make sure that this week’s offering reflects at least the essence and central pillars of his incomparable body of work.
Francisco Sánchez Gomes, Paco de Lucía, was born in Algeciras in 1947. His second (maternal surname) is Portuguese as his mother Lucía Gomes was from Castro Marim near Faro in The Algarve. He released an album in 1987 called Castro Marín in recognition of his Portuguese roots.
He is considered one of the all time great guitarists and has won, among many other prestigious awards, The Premio Nacional de Guitarra de Arte Flamenco and The Príncipe De Asturias Arts Award as well as being named Doctor Honoris Causa by the Universities of Cadiz and Berkeley.
Although the vast majority of his work has been in the world of Flamenco, he has also recorded a number of works in other styles, such as Classical, Jazz-Flamenco fusion and others.
Here is a relatively early clip called “Percusión Flamenca”:
Both his mother, Lucía Gomes “La Portuguesa”, and his father, Antonio Sánchez, had a strong influence on his musical vocation. He received his first guitar classes from his father and his brother Ramón. Throughout his childhood his father made him practise several hours a day. His artistic name, de Lucía, also dates back to his childhood. In the barrio in Algeciras where he grew up there were lots of lads called Paco (short for Francisco). To tell them apart people tagged the mother’s name on the end. “Paco, el de Lucía” became “Paco de Lucía”.
Here’s a clip recorded in La Plaza Mayor in Madrid (great view of this beautiful Plaza, which is just up the road from us, at the end) of Paco playing Alegrías – “La Barrosa”:
His brothers are also Flamenco artists in their own right. Pepe has been a professional cantaor from a very early age and Ramón (sadly no longer with us), a guitarist. They have both worked with him on recordings and tours as well as with other artists.
Here’s Paco playing one of his best known compositions, the Rumba, “Entre Dos Aguas”:
At the end of the sixties he met Camarón de la Isla, with whom he was to create a legendary musical partnership. Their first recordings together demonstrate just what brilliant maestros both were of the most orthodox Flamenco palos. They recorded 10 albums together between 1968 and 1977. They then went their separate ways: both pioneers as Flamenco explored fresher, less orthodox avenues, incorporating elements of Popular Music, Jazz and even Rock.
Here they are together performing Bulerías:
Paco de Lucía’s greatest contribution to Flamenco may well be having managed to make it so popular and helped it reach an international audience, even if at times this has led to a dilution of the pure Flamenco essence of his playing. He is considered a first rate performer not only for his unquestionable virtuosity but also for his deeply personal style, which can be described as vigorous and rhythmic. A style that pervades nearly all of his work.
Here he is in a much more recent recording (2010) from German TV. He is playing a Minera called “Callejón del Muro”:
Another of Paco de Lucía’s contributions has been the incorporation of other instruments and percussion into his music, above all the use of the Cajón. He was introduced to this Afro-Peruvian instrument at the end of the seventies by Carlos “Caitro” Soto de la Colina, a Peruvian cajonero and composer. Paco intuitively understood that this instrument could provide the solid percussive base that he felt Flamenco needed in order to head in the direction he wanted to go and he added it to the sextet he was playing with at the time. Since then the cajón has become an essential element of contemporary Flamenco music as well as other genres. Here is a performance by his group where we can clearly see how Paco has introduced more modern arrangements and instrumentation with the addition of the flute and in this case bongos, rather than the cajón.
“Río Ancho” (Rumba):
And to end this post dedicated in its entirety to Paco de Lucía, one of the best guitarists of the twentieth century (and what we’ve seen so far of the twenty first), here he is in his most internationally recognisable guise. Mediterranean Sun Dance in the company of two other greats; Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin.