Enrique Morente, one of the great living flamenco singers and a composer and musician who pushed the boundaries of the genre to unimaginable directions, died Dec. 13 in a clinic in Spain. Morente suffered complications following an ulcer operation.
Morente's prowess as a singer was often compared to that of his late friend, Camarón de la Isla. But he left his indelible mark as an innovator in the genre, unafraid of fusing the strict cannons of flamenco to a broad variety of other music, from rock to pop to Latin American rhythms and even to religious music, with his "Misa Flamenca" (Flamenco Mass).
Morente was also one of the first to set venerable Spanish poetry by the likes of Federico Garcia Lorca to the flowing rhythms and beat of traditional flamenco.
Video: Enrique Morente performs with Sonic Youth
Born in Granada, Morente displayed an early interest for flamenco and by the time he was in his early teens, he'd travelled to Madrid to study with Pepe De La Matrona. Morente released his first album in 1967 and in 1970 he teamed up with guitarist Manolo Sanlúcar for what would become a long and fruitful partnership. In 1971, with his third album-"Homenaje Flamenco a Miguel Hernández" (Flamenco Homage to Miguel Hernandez), where he set Hernández's poetry to flamenco-he began what would become a long-running tradition of setting the poetry of Spain's best-known authors to this most traditional and Spanish of musical genres.
Perhaps his best-known work was 1977's "Omega," an album that set Lorca's book "Poeta en Nueva York" to music, and in which he collaborated with rock band Lagartija Nick and flamenco guitarists Vicente Amigo and Tomatito.
Morente's artistry survives in his wife, dancer Aurora Carbonell, and his children. Daughter Estrella Morente is considered one of the leading young flamenco singers today (she sang in Pedro Almodóvar's film "Volver," starring Penelope Cruz), while his other daughter, Soleá, and son Enrique, are also launching singing careers.
Morente's vigil was being held at a chapel at the headquarters of Spain's General Society of Authors and Composers (SGAE) to which he belonged since 1976 and had registered 270 works.
According to news reports, the singer's family filed a malpractice suit against the doctors who treated him in Madrid's Clinica La Luz.