Robert John Fletcher
At one AM, on June 21st, 2010 the uniquely colorful, one-of-a-kind flamenco guitarist Robert Fletcher died. He died of pneumonia as a result of being hospitalized for lung cancer. He died in Madrid, Spain, where he had lived since the1960s.
He was my friend for 30 years. He taught me how to play tientos one Saturday back in 1982. He came by my rented piso in Madrid around 10 AM—we went out and bought 5 bottles of Valdepenyas (sic) wine—and left around midnight. He taught me a couple of rhythm licks plus a couple of variations and had me play them over and over for hours and hours while he improvised over them. By midnight we were both drunk and the rhythm of tientos was forever stuck in my head.
He took me to Antonio Sanchez on Meson de Paredes—way back in the day—and I played “Six Days on the Road” on flamenco guitar, singing in English, while he translated for a room of eager on-lookers. Every time we hit the hook: “six days on the road and I’m a gonna make it home tonight” the room exploded in joyous jaleo. It was, well, memorable.
My friend Tim Smith knew Robert very well, studied with him. Fletcher was Best Man at Tim’s wedding. Tim wrote these heartfelt words:
No one will ever replace your smile, your humor, or your unique friendship. No one will ever replace the joy you brought when you entered a room. No one will ever replace you!
Standing in that familiar flamenco posture, your arms reached the sky with majestic brilliance. You never received the glory you deserved as the great Gypsy of Jaleo.
You were king!
The cante, toque, and baile have no compas’ without the beating heart of passion and your passion was infinite. You lived so richly, sharing your wealth with those around you. What a great loss that the Pharaoh must carry his riches with him! What great sorrow has been left behind!
Every waking hour, you donned the cloak of truth. Always speaking without pretense, it was so fun to ponder the wonders of the universe with you! Now, on this waking hour, I can only hear your voice in the wind. I can only feel the emptiness of where you were and where you should be. At closing time we would walk to another bar and find another drink and another laugh, but now that’s not possible.
My dear friend, you are loved.
I miss you.