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Carlos Santana

Santana ’69 by Carlos Santana and Baron Wolman

Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana

Long before anyone heard of the concept, “World Music,” Carlos Santana was playing it. At a time when the world of traditional, guitar-based rock ‘n roll was emerging from the “British Invasion” and reaching new levels of popularity in the English and U.S. markets, Santana infused it with a fresh energy and profound emotional depth that stirred the hearts and souls of millions of new fans around the entire globe. Skillfully blending elements of 12-bar blues, fiery rock riffs and sensuous Afro-Cuban rhythms, and featuring his passionate, instantly recognizable guitar style, Carlos Santana created a unique, magical sound. It is a sound that remains – like the long, sustained notes that mark his distinctive guitar solos – as powerful, as moving and as meaningful as ever, nearly 30 years after Carlos first shared it with the world. And, it is a sound that earned Carlos and the other original members of The Santana Band their rightful place among the legends of contemporary music with their 1998 induction into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.

Carlos Santana’s story begins in the village of Autolan, Mexico, where, at age five, Carlos was introduced to “traditional music” by his father, Jose. An accomplished mariachi violinist and experienced musician, he taught Carlos the basics of music theory and gave him an understanding of the value of a note. Although Carlos’ excitement for music would be sparked by this first experience, he quickly discovered the limits of its traditional form and wanted more. Carlos wanted to play what he heard on the radio: rock ‘n roll.

When the family moved to the boom town of Tijuana in 1955 eight-year-old Carlos picked up the guitar, studying and emulating the sounds of B.B. King, T-Bone Walker and John Lee Hooker. Soon he was playing with local bands like the “T.J.’s,” where he added his own unique touch and feel to the popular songs of 50’s rock ‘n’ roll. As he continued to play with different bands along the busy “Tijuana Strip,” he started to perfect his style and sound.

In 1960, Carlo’s family moved to San Francisco while he stayed in Tijuana to hone his musical skills in local clubs. When he moved north a year later, he found himself enrolled in school, learning English, and wanting to play music. At the same time, Carlos was immersed in the colorful atmosphere of San Francisco, with its diverse cultural influences and musical styles. It was as if destiny had brought Carlos to the right place at the right time for emerging street bands. Over the next five years, he continued to evolve his own unique musical style – a style that would become the template for a whole new musical genre.

In 1966, that music exploded on the streets of San Francisco with the debut performance of the Santana Blues Band. For the next two years, the group was caught up in a wave of popularity that took them from the stage of San Francisco’s Fillmore West to their historic appearance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. With that electrifying performance, Carlos Santana had arrived; and with him came both a powerful new Latin-flavored rock sound and an uncompromising dedication to his music – two factors that would influence people’s lives for well over a quarter century.

The world embraced Carlos with a passion. They were captivated by his music always changing, always exploring, always growing – yet always consistently and clearly Carlos. Every new release – including eight gold and seven platinum albums – became a reflection of Carlos’ personal growth and evolution. Fans also loved his messages – the gentle urgings toward peace, compassion, joy and understanding – that have been consistently delivered in a personal, heartfelt manner at performances in more than 50 countries. And, they loved his guitar playing which today remains among the most distinct and recognizable in all the world.

From the Santana Band’s double-platinum debut album, “SANTANA,” and the quadruple platinum follow-up “ABRAXA,” to the comprehensive boxed-set retrospective, “DANCE OF THE RAINBOW SERPENT” released in 1995… from Carlos’ successful jazz-influenced solo projects to the moving and highly-personal “BLUES FOR SALVADOR” to his featured performance on John Lee Hooker’s “CHILL OUT” album… from the successful launch of his own “Guts and Grace” record label in 1993 and its debut release of “LIVE FOREVER” (which featured songs by Carlos’ musical inspiration Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, Stevie Ray Vaughn and John Coltrane), to the G&G release of the “GROTHERS” album (which featured the 1996 release of “MYSTIC MAN” by Italian composed Paolo Rustichelli… from the 1988 video retrospective, “VIVA SANTANA!”, to the bands 1993 South American concert video, “SACRED FIRE”, to the 1997 release of “A HISTORY OF SANTA: THE RIVER OF COLOR AND SOUND” CD-ROM and “SANTANA: LIVE AT THE FILMORE”, a double CD that features tracks recorded at the group’s 1968 performances at the legendary San Francisco club… it is clear that Carlos had displayed an uncompromising passion for his musical expression.

This passion also has allowed him to venture into new musical and geographic territory, including scoring the feature film, La Bamba, embarking on a 1988 tour with jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and participating in the 1987 “Rock n’ Roll Summit,” the first-ever joint U.S.-Soviet rock concert in history. And, it had been brought to bear to the benefit of numerous worthy causes, such as “Blues for Salvador,” San Francisco Earthquake relief, Tijuana orphans and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In addition to earning the love and respect of millions of fans around the world, Carols’ dedication to this musical vision has also brought the guitarist major critical awards. He received a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance 1988 and was the subject of a special tribute concert by N.A.R.A.S. during the Grammy Awards celebration in 1996 in conjunction with his induction into the Hollywood Rock Walk. He has received ten Bammies (including six Best Guitarist and three Musician of the Year awards) and, in 1997, was among the inaugural group, along with the late Bill Graham and Jerry Garcia, elected to the Bammy Hall of Fame. He also was voted the best pop-rock guitarist several times in the Playboy Magazine’s annual readers’ poll and the Santana band was the first to earn the CBS Records Crystal Globe Award for selling 10 million albums or more. In 1996, Carlos received the Billboard Century Award, billboard Magazine’s highest honor for creative achievement, and the Chicano Music Awards named him the Latino Music Legend of the Year in 1997. And, in addition to his musical awards, Carlos has received numerous civic and humanitarian commendations as well, including 1997 Arthur M. Sohcot Award for Public Service and Excellence in Performance, and the 1997 Golden Eagle Legend in Music Award from Nosotros, among others.

In 1997, Carlos also became immortalized in bronze. He was the subject of a special, limited edition sculpture entitle, “Viva Santana,” by noted sculptor, Paul Wegner. The 24″-tall piece depicts Carlos in a familiar pose: eyes closed, face turned toward heaven with an expression of pure joy as he coaxes on of his signature sustained notes from his guitar.

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Good music comes out of people playing together, knowing what they want to do and going for it.