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Carlos Santana: 1947—: Rock Guitarist

Played Clubs In Tijuana

Santana's family moved to San Francisco in 1961, settling in the predominantly Mexican Mission District. Carlos joined them for good only in 1963, after putting in time as a club musician in Tijuana, and his arrival coincided with an explosion in creativity in San Francisco's music scene. In the Bay area psychedelic rock, then in its infancy, mixed with folk music, Latin jazz and dance music, and blues. All these forms made their mark on the young guitarist, who was working as a dishwasher and playing music wherever he could. But one influence stood out. Even after moving to San Francisco, Santana told People, he was slow to adopt a rock and roll lifestyle. But "that all changed after I saw B.B. King at the Fillmore," he recalled. In 1966 the Santana Blues Band, soon renamed simply Santana, was born.

Though they found work around the Bay area, Santana and his bandmates took their time developing their distinctive sound. They turned down several offers of recording contracts, waiting for the perfect forum to announce their striking new music. In the 1969 Woodstock festival in upstate New York, they found that forum. Unknown to the crowd of 500,000, they produced one of the festival's highlights with their new number "Soul Sacrifice." They were quickly signed to the Columbia label and in three years released four of the undisputed classic albums of the rock genre, Santana (1969), Abraxas, (1970), Santana III (1971), and Caravanserai (1972). These albums spawned top ten hits such as "Evil Ways" and "Oye Como Va". The latter song, a rock treatment of a composition by salsa bandleader Tito Puente, exemplified the mixture of innovation and rhythmic earthiness that made Santana's music so compelling.

At a Glance . . .

Born in Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco state, Mexico, on July 20, 1947; son of a mariachi violinist; married Deborah King, 1973. Religion: Studied with Indian mystic Sri Chinmoy, 1970s.

Career: Began performing c. 1961, Tijuana; formed Santana Blues Band, soon renamed Santana, San Francisco, 1966; appeared at Woodstock festival, 1969; signed to Columbia label, 1969; first four albums, Santana, Abraxas, Santana III, Caravanserai, 1969-72, considered classics of rock genre; performed in Live Aid concert, 1985; signed to Polydor label, 1991, creating own Guts and Grace label under Polygram aegis; signed to Arista label and released Supernatural, 1999; Supernatural sold over 10 million copies worldwide.

Awards: Eight Grammy awards for Supernatural.

Addresses: Record Label—Arista Records, 9975 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.

Caravanserai was a connected suite of pieces that showed a strong influence of jazz, a music that Santana had once derided as cocktail music. In the 1970s Santana's music took a new turn. Dismayed by the descent of many rock musicians into spirals of drug abuse he sought spiritual instruction from the Indian guru Sri Chinmoy, who rechristened him Devadip Carlos Santana; the name meant "the eye, the lamp, and the light of God." At the same time, Santana sought out new challenges musically. Learning to read music for the first time, Santana joined with fellow Chinmoy disciples John McLaughlin (for the album Love Devotion Surrender, 1973), and with saxophonist John Coltrane's widow Alice Coltrane (for Illuminations, 1974). Since this period, Santana's public manner of speaking has had a certain mystical tinge.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Paul Anthony Samuelson (1915– ) Biography to Bessie Smith (1895–1937) BiographyCarlos Santana: 1947—: Rock Guitarist Biography - Played Clubs In Tijuana, Influenced By Fusion Jazz