Paco de Lucia, a renowned Spanish guitarist who dazzled audiences with his lightning-speed flamenco rhythms and finger work, died Wednesday in Mexico. He was 66.
De Lucia suffered a heart attack while on vacation at the Caribbean beach resort of Playa del Carmen and was taken to a hospital where he died, Mexican officials said.
De Lucia — whose real name was Francisco Sanchez Gomez — was best-known for flamenco but also experimented with other genres of music. One of his most famous recordings was "Friday Night in San Francisco," recorded with fellow guitarists John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola in 1981.
During the 1960s and 1970s, de Lucia formed a popular duo with late flamenco singer legend Camaron de la Isla, with the two working together on 10 records.
His 1973 rumba "Entre Dos Aguas" (Between Two Waters) became one of the most popular recordings in Spain.
De Lucia was awarded the Spanish Culture Ministry's Fine Arts Gold Medal in 1992 and the prestigious Prince of Asturias prize for the Arts in 2004.
Born Dec. 21, 1947, in Algeciras, Spain, de Lucia was immersed in flamenco music from an early age, with his father, Antonio, and two brothers playing guitar and a third brother an accomplished flamenco singer. He took his artistic name from that of his Portuguese mother, Lucia.
De Lucia was from a poor background, and his formal schooling ended when he was 11. He was soon out playing flamenco in local bars. At 14 he made his first record with his brother Pepe, "Los Chiquitos de Algeciras" (Kids of Algeciras).
Although de Lucia had no formal musical training, from an early age he impressed people with his remarkable dexterity, hand strength and technique that allowed him to produce machine-gun-like "picado" riffs so characteristic of flamenco guitar.
"I have always found that the more technique you have the easier it is to express yourself," he told Spain's El Pais newspaper in a 2004 interview. "If you lack technique you lose the freedom to create."
Arguably the most influential flamenco artist ever, he infused new life into the traditional art form and is credited with modernizing it by introducing influences from other musical forms such as jazz, bossa nova, classical and salsa.
His own sextet, formed in 1981, included bass, drums and saxophone. In addition to his work with McLaughlin and Di Meola, his high-profile collaborations included work with guitarist Larry Coryell and pianist Chick Corea, who joined de Lucia's sextet for the album "Zyryah" in 1990. In 1995 he played with Bryan Adams on the song "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman."
His last studio album, "Cositas Buenas," (Good Things) earned him his first Latin Grammy in 2004, and his 2012 live recording "En Vivo" (Live) received a second.