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August 30, 2014
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De Lucía receives heartfelt funeral

Relatives and friends carry the coffin of Spanish guitarist Paco de Lucía along a street for his funeral in a church in Algeciras.
By Harold Heckle & Laura Leon
AP (*)

Hundreds of people swell the streets of guitarist’s hometown

ALGECIRAS, Spain — Hundreds of people gathered in the rain to mourn the death of virtuoso guitarist Paco de Lucía before a funeral yesterday in his hometown of Algeciras at the heart of flamenco music country in Spain’s deep south.

As De Lucía’s body arrived at the town hall from Madrid early in the morning, mourners threw red roses over his hearse, called out his name and applauded.

His body had been flown from Cancun, Mexico, where the 66-year-old died of a heart attack on Wednesday while on vacation at a beachside holiday home he owned at Playa del Carmen just south of the Caribbean coast resort.

“I’m speechless. His death is such a great loss, and it caught us all by surprise,” said 57-year-old painter and decorator Jose María García, also a native of the Mediterranean port town of Algeciras.

No Spanish guitarist has been held in higher esteem by Spaniards since the death of classically-trained Andres Segovia (1893-1987), García said.

De Lucía was one of Spain’s greatest musical innovators, winning the admiration of fellow artists and fans alike.

Renowned British guitarist John McLaughlin said that to have worked and played music with De Lucía was one of the greatest blessings in his life.

“In the place where he lived in my heart, there is now an emptiness that will stay with me till I join him,” McLaughlin said.

Early on in his career, he adopted a radically different playing technique by crossing his legs and placing the guitar on his right thigh, something that neither his flamenco mentors — Nino Ricardo and Sabicas — nor classical players like Segovia, had done previously.

This enabled De Lucía to hold the guitar almost horizontally and allowed easier access to the fret-board where his fingers could reach chords previously considered too tough to play.

In Andalusian towns like Algeciras — where a bronze statue commemorates the player and his hallmark playing position — De Lucía is best remembered for his work with singer Jose Monge Cruz, whose stage name was Camarón de la Isla.

As a duo, De Lucía and Camarón elevated flamenco music from its roots in small venues and even hillside caves and took it to some of the world’s most famous concert halls. With De Lucía as studio producer, they also left a rich legacy of some of flamenco’s most thrilling recorded music.

De Lucía’s repertoire also included classical music, and his renditions of compositions by Manuel de Falla and Joaquin Rodrigo won praise.

While on one of his world tours, De Lucía became fascinated by the cajon — a box-like percussion instrument used in Peruvian criollo (or creole) coastal music. Today the cajon is as much an integral part of flamenco as is the guitar or staccato hand-clap.

Nowhere was the versatility or technical prowess of De Lucia’s style better showcased than in the jazz trios and sextets that he formed with guitarists like McLaughlin, Larry Coryell or Al Di Meola, pianist Chick Corea and jazz fusion percussionist Rubem Dantas.

“What I admire most is his total humility in the face of huge success and his human warmth,” García said.

Spain began its formal mourning of De Lucía — who took his stage name from his mother’s first name, literally meaning “Paco, Lucia’s son” — on Friday at Madrid’s National Auditorium music center, where royalty mingled with grieving music fans to pay their last respects before De Lucía’s casket and offer condolences to his family.

De Lucía’s coffin was visited throughout the night by a stream of people in Algeciras’ town hall before being taken just past noon to church where Pepe de Lucía, the guitarist’s brother, sang a heart-rending flamenco tribute at a funeral Mass.

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