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France's gypsy guitarist Manitas de Plata dies at 93

media Manitas de Plata in concert, June1983. AFP PHOTO DOMINIQUE FAGET

Manitas de Plata, the gypsy guitarist of humble origins feted by Picasso and Dali, who enflamed flamenco-lovers the world over, has died aged 93, his daughter announced on

One of France's best-selling artists, the man who in 1921 was born Ricardo Baliardo in a caravan in southern France passed away overnight Tuesday in a retirement home surrounded by his extensive family, said Françoise.

Encouraged by his uncle, he mastered the guitar at the age of only nine without being able to read a single note of music.

He later changed his name to Manitas de Plata, literally "little silver hands" in Spanish and played in cafes in the French Riviera where he was friends with the poet Jean Cocteau, the painters Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, and screen goddess Brigitte Bardot.

He later conquered famous venues around the world, including New York's Carnegie Hall, sealing his reputation abroad. Altogether, he sold some 93 million albums globally.

A lover of beautiful women and fancy cars, Manitas de Plata spent the money he earned from his music on his extensive family and there was nothing left by the time he died.

He once acknowledged not knowing exactly how many children he had - some say between 24 and 28. He recognised at least 13 of these.

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