THE flamenco guitarist Manitas de Plata has passed away in France at the age of 93.
Born Ricardo Baliardo in Southern France to a gypsy family, he developed his guitar skills as a young child. Music was to take him from begging on the streets to performing initially at gypsy gatherings in the Camargue region and then eventually to a worldwide audience.
He became known as Manitas de Plata — meaning Little Silver Hands. Early work included regular stints at cafes on the French Rivera where he was a favourite of the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso — who once engraved a drawing of matadors on his guitar.
When New York’s Gallery of Modern Art opened in 1965, De Plata performed along with his cousin, the singer José Reyes, while Salvador Dali painted on stage. During this period, De Plata also made his first appearance at New York’s Carnegie Hall, a venue he was to return to regularly over his career.
De Plata also toured extensively across the world, appearing in concerts and on popular TV shows. His recordings were extremely popular, selling more than 90 millions records over his career, making him one of the France’s bestselling recording artists.
But despite his great success, De Plata was to end up practically penniless, having spent his fortune over the years on fast cars, gambling and the high life. His high spending never included looking after his tax affairs, resulting in major problems with the authorities in France.
A legendary ladies’ man, he was rumoured to have fathered more than 20 children, with the guitarist himself once admitting that he didn’t know how many children he had.
Manitas de Plata passed away at a retirement home in Montpellier.
See footage of Manitas de Plata playing.
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