Carlos Santana

Cover of Carlos Santana

Carlos Augusto Selva Santana is a Mexican American rock guitarist. Santana became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band, Santana, which pioneered rock, salsa and jazz fusion. The band's sound featured his melodic, blues-based guitar lines set against Latin and African rhythms featuring percussion instruments such as timbales and congas not generally heard in rock music.

Santana continued to work in these forms over the following decades. He experienced a resurgence of popularity and critical acclaim in the late 1990s. Rolling Stone named Santana number 15 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time in 2003. He has won 10 Grammy Awards and 3 Latin Grammy Awards.

Santana was signed by CBS Records and went into the studio to record their second album. They were not satisfied with the release and decided changes needed to be made. This resulted in the dismissal of Bob Livingston. Santana replaced him with Mike Shrieve, who had a strong background in both jazz and rock.

Marcus Malone was forced to quit the band due to personal problems, and the band re-enlisted Michael Carabello. Carabello brought with him percussionist Jose Chepito Areas, who was already well-known in his country, Nicaragua, and, with his skills and professional experience, was a major contributor to the band.

Bill Graham, who had been a fan of the band from the start, convinced the promoters of the Woodstock Music and Art Festival to let them appear before their first album was even released. They were one of the surprises of the festival; their set was legendary and, later, the exposure of their eleven-minute instrumental "Soul Sacrifice" in the Woodstock film and soundtrack albums vastly increased Santana's popularity.

Graham also gave the band some key advice to record the Willie Bobo song "Evil Ways", as he felt it would get them radio airplay. Their first album, simply titled Santana, became a huge hit, reaching number four on the U.S. album charts, and the catchy single "Evil Ways" reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.

But tension in the band continued. Along with musical differences, drug use became a problem, and Santana was deeply worried it was affecting the band's performance. Coke Escovedo encouraged Santana to take more control of the band's musical direction, much to the dismay of some of the others who thought that the band and its sound was a collective effort. Also, financial irregularities were exposed while under the

Growing resentments between Santana and Michael Carabello over lifestyle issues resulted in his departure on bad terms. James Mingo Lewis was hired at the last minute as a replacement at a concert in New York City. David Brown later left due to substance abuse problems. A South American tour was cut short in Lima, Peru, due to student protests against U.S. governmental policies and unruly fans. The madness of the tour convinced Santana that changes needed to be made in the band and in his life.

Carlos Santana during a concert in 2005

Carlos Santana during a concert in 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In January 1972, Santana, Neal Schon and Coke Escovedo joined former Band of Gypsys drummer Buddy Miles for a concert at Hawaii's Diamond Head Crater, which was recorded for a live album. The performance was erratic and uneven, but the album managed to achieve gold-record status on the weight of Santana's popularity.

Around the age of 8, Santana "fell under the influence" of blues performers like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker.He also credits Jimi Hendrix, Mike Bloomfield and Peter Green as important influences; he considered Bloomfield a direct mentor, writing of a key meeting with Bloomfield in San Francisco in the foreword he wrote to a biography of Bloomfield, Michael Bloomfield: If You Love These Blues-An Oral History in 2000.

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