Santana: It’s the name of the band. But it’s also the name of the man.
By the time Carlos Santana made his “breakout” appearance at Woodstock in 1969, the 22-year-old guitarist had already worked his way through multiple styles of music including blues, folk, rock, jazz, African, and a plethora of traditional Latin influences. Rather than settling on one genre, he put together a band that blended them all. No one had ever heard anything like it.
When the band took the stage at Woodstock, their debut studio album had not yet been released, and the crowd had no idea what was coming. The conga beat started, and by the time the band got to the end of their eleven-minute performance of “Soul Sacrifice,” Santana had 400,000 dancing, clapping, screaming fans. When an abridged version of the performance was included in the 1970 documentary about the music festival, millions more heard the fusion of rock, blue and Latin jazz that became the band’s signature sound.
Perhaps the most iconic of all Santana’s song is the instrumental masterpiece “Europa,” written by Santana and the band’s keyboardist Bob Coster, and released in 1976. Certainly this song has been covered by more artists than any other Santana song, and not just by guitarists. Gato Barbieri’s scorching saxophone rendition became his biggest hit, and Spanish romantic singer Dyango set lyrics to the melody and released it on his 1990 Album Corazón De Bolero.
By the 1990’s, Santana’s commercial success had waned. He still had a massive fan base, and while a younger audience may have recognized classic hits like “Oye Como Va” and “Black Magic Woman,” the band hadn’t had a top ten hit for decades.
Then “Smooth” happened.
In 1999, Santana released Supernatural, their most successful album. Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty’s vocals slithered over the cha-cha beat, and Carlos Santana’s guitar licks soared above them all. Santana had their first top-ten hit since 1970, and reached number one on the Billboard charts for the very first time. The album produced a second number-one hit, “Maria Maria” featuring Wyclef Jean and R & B duo The Product G&B. Now, Santana’s music had been reintroduced to whole new audiences, and the band’s popularity, as well as the man’s, only grew. Since Supernatural, Santana has released seven more Studio albums, six of which achieved top-ten status on the Billboard charts.
Books could be written on the man, the band, the music and the influences. But the best way to learn about Santana is to listen to the music.
Santana is continuing their tour, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Supernatural into 2020, accompanied by Earth, Wind and Fire. Find tickets HERE.