French flamenco guitarist Manitas de Plata passed away in the south of France on August 5, 2014. He was 93 years old.
Born in a gypsy caravan in Sète in southern France in 1921 as Ricardo Baliardos, de Plata (whose name means "Little Hands of Silver") gained fame by performing at the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer Gypsy pilgrimage in Camargue. Strangely, he did not perform in public until 1963—ten years after the death of gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. He soon became the darling of music lovers, movie stars, and artists.
Pablo Picasso exclaimed, "This man is of greater worth than I am," after hearing de Plata perform in Arles in 1964, and French filmmaker and artist Jean Cocteau wrote de Plata a letter calling him "a creator." Salvador Dali was also a fan.
Brigitte Bardot said that he "set audiences on fire."
After beginning his recording career in 1963, de Plata went on to sell a total of 93 million albums internationally, and was a major force in popularizing flamenco across the planet.
The self-confessed "lover of music and women" allegedly produced so many children that he couldn't say how many he had, and, apparently, he fathered a few members of the world-renowned Gypsy Kings. He was devoted to his family, however, and died poor, after spending his fortune on his children and relatives.
His daughter Francoise reported he passed away in a nursing home surrounded by family members.
Manitas de Plata Performing While Salvador Dali Paints
Performing on French TV in his very late 80s