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Paco de Lucia, 66; modernized flamenco

Paco de Lucia was best known for his flamenco but also experimented with other genres of music.

Martial Trezzin/Associated Press/File 2010

Paco de Lucia was best known for his flamenco but also experimented with other genres of music.

MADRID — Paco de Lucia, one of the greatest guitarists, who dazzled audiences with his lightning-speed flamenco rhythms and finger work, died in Mexico, Spanish officials said Wednesday. He was 66.

Mr. De Lucia suffered a heart attack while on vacation at the Caribbean beach resort of Playa del Carmen and died at a hospital .

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‘‘Paco lived as he wished and died playing with his children beside the sea,’’ said a statement from Mr. de Lucia’s family.

Describing the death as premature, Education and Culture Minister Jose Ignacio Wert said Mr. de Lucia was ‘‘a unique and unrepeatable figure.’’

Mr. de Lucia — whose real name was Francisco Sanchez Gomez — was best known for flamenco but also experimented with other genres. One of his most famous recordings was ‘‘Friday Night in San Francisco,’’ recorded with John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola in 1981.

During the 1960s and 1970s, he formed a popular duo with late singer legend Camaron de la Isla, with the two working on 10 records.

His 1973 rumba ‘‘Entre Dos Aguas’’ (Between Two Waters) became one of the most popular recordings in Spain.

Mr. de Lucia was granted a Doctor Honoris Causa degree by Berklee College of Music in 2010.

His last studio album, ‘‘Cositas buenas’’ (Good Things), earned him his first Latin Grammy in 2004 while his 2012 live recording ‘‘En Vivo’’ (Live) received a second.

Mr. 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 name from that of his Portuguese mother, Lucia.

He was from a poor background, and Mr. de Lucia’s 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 Mr. de Lucia had no formal 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.

‘‘I have always found that the more technique you have, the easier it is to express yourself,’’ he said in 2004.

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