arts

Santana

Santana at WoodstockGiven an opportunity, Carlos Santana has always made the most of the breaks that came his way. Whether itís being a last minute addition to the Woodstock festival line-up (thanks to Bill Graham) or much later when his career was waning doing the Live Aid concert (Bill Graham gets the credit again), Santana rises to the occasion and comes away with legions of new fans. Itís really the story of his entire career and it goes a long way to explaining why this baby boomer (born in 1947 baby!) has been wowing the crowds since 1966.

Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Carlos inherited the musical talent of his father, a Mariaachi violinist. When the family moved to Tijuana, Carlos picked up the guitar and began listening to B.B. King, T. Bone Walker and John Lee Hooker on radio stations beamed in from the States.

A few years after moving to San Francisco, in the early 60ís, Santana formed the Santana Blues Band. The Latin blues-based sound was unique for American ears but instantly popular. The group quickly moved from being a regional band to a national break-out (even an appearance on Ed Sullivan), and the Woodstock performance (before they ever released their first record!) sealed the deal.

There have been plenty of ups and downs and reformulations of the band over the years, but the Latin blues sound has remained a constant and Santanaís prowess with the guitar is recognized (in the top 15 all time greats according to Rolling Stone). SantanaWhile Soul Sacrifice was a big hit at Woodstock, the band needed hits that you could play on the radio and turned out dozens over the years. Evil Ways, Black Magic Woman, Oye Como Va (a Tito Puente tune), Everybodyís Everything, Let It Shine, Europa, and many more. Always interested in collaborations, the list of artists Santana has worked with is amazing in itself -- John McLaughlin, Alice Coltrane, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Booker T. Jones, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Wilie Nelson, McCoy Tyner, and Ottmar Liebert.

In the late 90ís when his success faltered, he came out with the Supernatural album that paired him with younger artists such as Eric Clapton, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, Cee-Lo and Dave Matthews. It was a blow-out smash. The single Maria Maria with The Product G&B and Smooth with Matchbox Twenty were huge hits and pushed sales of the album to record breaking levels for Santana. Not a bad comeback for another aging boomer. Successful pairings with younger artists have continued to be a winning formula for Santana, but donít let that fool you. Ninety million records sold, 10 Grammy awards and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are just milestones. The old dude has still got the touch and thereís many more hits in him, wait and see.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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