Flamenco Great Paco de Lucia Dead at 66

Paco De Lucia performs at Royal Festival Hall in London, England in 2012

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Paco de Lucía, the man whose name was synonymous with flamenco guitar and who popularized the music worldwide with his mix of virtuosity and accessible melodies, died of a reported heart attack this morning near the Mexican resort city of Cancún. De Lucía was 66.

According to published reports, de Lucía, who had a vacation home near the beaches of Tulum, was playing with his children at the beach when he began to feel ill. He died on this way to the hospital.

News of de Lucía’s death, reported by the mayor’s office of his hometown of Algeciras, Spain, reverberated worldwide and quickly became a global trend on twitter.

"We've lost the biggest flamenco guitarist Spain has given birth to," tweeted Spanish group Estopa.

"Silence…my soul is broken…hear it creak. ‘Til always my friend Paco de Lucía," tweeted Alejandro Sanz.

And many guitarists no doubt echoed what producer/guitarist Andrés Castro tweeted when he wrote: "I learned how to play ‘Entre dos aguas’ when I was 10. That’s how my career started. God bless the maestro."

Born Francisco Sánchez Gómez on December 21, 1947, de Lucía was the son of flamenco guitarist Antonio Sanchez but adopted his stage name in honor of his mother, Lucía Gomes. From an early age, he aspired to be a great flamenco guitarist but took the genre much further than anyone had before him. His rise to fame began with his collaborations with fabled flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla in the 60s and 70s, with whom he recorded 10 albums of traditional flamenco and gained recognition as a serious virtuoso.

But in 1975, de Lucía broke ground with the album Entre Dos Aguas (Between Two Waters). The track of the same name became a universal instrumental hit and catapulted flamenco to international consciousness.

Riding on the crest of Entre Dos Aguas, de Lucía toured the world with a sextet that included his two brothers--Pepe de Lucía and Ramón de Algeciras—as well as Jorge Pardo, Carles Benavent and Rubem Dantas. His ensemble included the Peruvian cajón, a box-like percussion instrument that has since become a staple of the genre.

In the ensuing years, De Lucía went far beyond that traditional, purist flamenco artists had done before. He experimented with jazz, bossa nova, salsa and pop, and recorded signature albums with global acts like Chick Corea, Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin.

The fact that he had to constantly record, said de Lucía in an interview with Spanish daily El Pais in 2004, is what forced him to become a constant innovator. While previous flamenco stars could record maybe three, four or even 10 albums in their entire career, "I had to record almost one a year and I decided each album would be novel. In a way, that fored me to continue to grow and to learn."

In recent years, de Lucía received several high profile honors, including Spain’s Príncipe de Asturias Award for the Arts in 2004 and an honorary doctorate degree from Berklee College of Music and was actively recording and touring.

"My dear friend has passed and we will never forget his important legacy!" wrote Di Meola on his facebook account.  "My years with Paco were amazing and unforgettable! I will miss him terribly:(( RIP Paco."