Paco de Lucía: Doctor in Honoris Causa
‘When I was a child, flamenco was only the music of my people, of Andalusian people, of patios and late nights, wine and poverty…’
With these words, Paco de Lucía received an honorary doctorate from the prestigious Berklee College of contemporary music in Boston, Massachusetts a few months ago. Thanks largely to artists like him, flamenco is no longer relegated to Andalusia or to poverty. This is the first such degree to be awarded to a flamenco artist and the first major acknowledgement of the contribution made by Paco de Lucía, and by extension by flamenco, to contemporary world music. Of course, Paco de Lucía has rightly earned this accolade. Not only is he one of the great guitarists of our times, but he also has played an incredibly important role in steering flamenco away from the grip of the purists, without ever losing the rigour that is part of his musical ethic.
Although Paco de Lucía started his career very early, he was noted outside of Andalusia, in Madrid and other parts of Spain only in the 1970s, when he became part of the unforgettable duo that he formed with Camarón de la Isla. Shortly before that, his album Almoraima had come out and taken Madrid by storm, so that RTVE, Spanish national radio and television, came to showcase his work and so spread flamenco around a Spain that remained largely ignorant of the music of its south. Here, in nostalgia’s name, is what is surely one of his signature pieces that we all recognize, Entre dos aguas:
And here, also in nostalgia’s name, is a photo of the young Paco de Lucía on the jacket of Almoraima, as he was when he first encountered fame, a collection that threw open so many possibilities to flamenco and to its aficionados: