During these terribly difficult moments, we can at least find some solace in the fact that while Paco de Lucía may have died very young, he has lived at least three lives. There is perhaps nobody who has played the guitar for more hours than him, and certainly few people can boast of having his enormous stature as a human being. Having been his friend is the thing of which I am proudest.
To me, Paco began as an idol, later became a master, and ended up acting as an older brother. He was the person you could always turn to if you wanted to know what step to take next to further your own career, because he had already been through every imaginable step. And so every flamenco artist woke up on this gray day feeling orphaned and bereft of the light that guided our way.
He was very likely the best guitarist of all time. All the musicians I have met throughout my life, from Keith Richards to Pat Metheny, admitted as much. But it wasn't just that. It is fair to recall his dimension as a great producer and composer of flamenco music. Nearly every element that defines the genre from a contemporary point of view, from the choirs to the cajón and certain styles, we owe to him.
That may be because he was always in touch with the new generations, and because he was the youngest of all the flamenco guitarists. Those who were there for his honorary doctorate ceremony at the Berklee College of Music will remember his infectious vitality, which captured the imagination of other musical legends such as the pianist Chick Corea.
I remember an anecdote involving both men that illustrates Paco’s personal magnetism. On one occasion, Corea told him: ‘Paco, let’s tour with my band and you play. Or let’s tour with your band and I’ll play. Or you play and I’ll dance.’ Chick, like every other musician in the world, was ready to accept anything, as long as it involved playing with the great Paco.
Today, musicians and fans alike are filled with sadness at learning that his life was still full of projects. He had decided to spend a few months in Havana because he wanted his children Antonia and Diego to get to know that scene. He went to see the legendary Cuban band Los Van Van three times, and was planning to work with them on a new project. And he died in Cancún because he was there to record a new flamenco album. Sadly, we will never get to hear it.
Javier Limón is a musician and producer