Manitas de Plata, one of the biggest-selling flamenco artists of all time, died at a rest home in France on November 5. He was 93.
In a career that spanned more than 50 years, De Plata broke boundaries in traditional flamenco music and became one of the best-known gypsy guitarists—his atypical rhythm patterns were of particular influence upon the style.
Born Ricardo Baliardo in Sete, France, in 1921, he was said to have become an accomplished guitar player by age 9. When his career was gaining momentum, he changed his name to Manitas De Plata—which means “little silver hands.” De Plata became a fixture in 1960s French high society, rubbing elbows with the likes of Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Brigitte Bardot, and Salvador Dali.
He didn’t record his first album until he was nearly 40 years old, but from there it was no looking back—his more than 20 releases between the mid-1960s to 2004 sold close to 93 million albums.
At the height of his fame, he had amassed considerable wealth—Picasso reportedly said, “That man is of greater worth than I am”—but, according to family members, he spent the bulk of his fortune on wild living, and in his final years eked out a more meager existence in a Montpellier retirement home.