When we think of all the great guitarists throughout time, many names come to mind – Carlos Santana is one of them. In August 2003, Santana was named fifteenth on Rolling Stone magazine’s “List of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. And rightly so. This Mexican-born American guitarist has toured and recorded successfully since the late ’60s. In the 90s he was rediscovered by a new generation with his album Supernatural, which involved well-known artists such as Rob Thomas and Eric Clapton.
Carlos Santana got his roots in Mexico, where he grew up. He spent a great amount of time around music as his father was a mariachi violinist. Santa took up the violin at five, but at eight switched to the guitar. Later when the family moved to Tijuana, he began playing in clubs and bars. By the early ’60s, the family moved to San Francisco and Santana followed. In 1966 Santana created the Santana Blues Band. Despite the name, the group was at first a collective; it was required to name a nominal leader due to a provision of the musicians union. The name was eventually shortened to Santana and the band debuted at the Fillmore West Theater in San Francisco on June 16, 1968. Soon after, Santana recorded the album Super Session that had featured himself with Mike Bloomfield and Steve Stills. The result was The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper, which marked Santana’s recording debut.
Santana’s career only evolved from here. He toured the U.S. prior to the release of the album, including a notable appearance at the celebrated Woodstock festival in August 1969 that was filmed and recorded. Santana was released the same month, and it became a massive hit, as did its follow-ups Abraxas (1970) and Santana III (1971). After completing recording and touring activities in connection with Santana III, the original Santana band broke up.
Carlos retained rights to the group’s name Santana that consisted of himself and a constantly changing collection of hired musicians. His first recording after the breakup of the original group was a live show performed in Hawaii with singer and drummer Buddy Miles. The album reached the Top Ten and eventually went platinum. Following the release of the Santana band album Caravanserai (1972), Carlos formed a duo with John McLaughlin, guitarist for the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The two shared a spiritual leader in guru Sri Chinmoy, who bestowed upon Carlos the name Devadip, meaning “the eye, the lamp, and the light of God.” Devadip Carlos Santana and Mahavishnu John McLaughlin’s duo album Love Devotion Surrender was released in June 1973. It reached the Top 20 and eventually went gold. After releasing another Santana band project, Welcome, Carlos next teamed up with another religious disciple, Turiya Alice Coltrane, widow of John Coltrane, for a third duo album. Their collaboration, Illuminations, was released in September 1974; it spent two months in the charts, peaking in the bottom quarter of the Top 100.
During the 1970s, Carlos Santana released a series of gold or platinum albums: Borboletta (1974), Amigos (1975), Festival (1976), Moonflower (1977), and Inner Secrets (1978). In February 1979, he finally released his first real solo album, the half-live, half-studio Oneness/Silver Dreams — Golden Reality, actually credited to Devadip.
During the 80s, songs that got more radio time began making their appearances included “Winning” in 1981 and “Hold On” (a remake of Canadian artist Ian Thomas’ song) in 1982 both reached the top twenty. Santana again paid tribute to his early rock roots by doing the film score to La Bamba, which was based on the tragically short life of rock and roll legend Ritchie Valens and starred Lou Diamond Philips.
Carlos spent almost five years away from recording, not returning until June 1999 when he issued Supernatural on Arista Records. The Santana band album featured many tracks co-written by guest stars such as Rob Thomas of matchbox 20, Eric Clapton, Lauryn Hill, and others. Paced by the number one singles “Smooth” and “Maria Maria,” the album became the biggest hit of Santana’s career, selling upwards of ten million copies. It also won Santana eight Grammy Awards.
In 2002, Santana released Shaman, revisiting the Supernatural format of guest artists including P.O.D. and Seal. Although the album was not the runaway success its predecessor had been, it produced two radio-friendly hits. “The Game of Love” featuring Michelle Branch, rose to number five on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent many weeks at the top of the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
Other albums followed including Possibilities and All That I Am. In 2008, Santana started working with his long-time friend, Marcelo Vieira, on his solo album Marcelo Vieira’s Acoustic Sounds, which is due to be released at the end of the year. It features tracks such as “For Flavia” and “Across the Grave”, the later featuring heavy melodic riffs by Santana.
In addition to his music notoriety, Santana also oversees several business ventures including the Milagro Foundation, which has donated nearly $3 million to help disadvantaged youth; his women’s shoe line, Carlos by Carlos Santana, which has racked up $100 million in sales; his signature brand of sparkling white wine; his partnership in Maria Maria, a chain of high-end Mexican cantinas; and his upcoming documentary called Architects of a New Dawn, which advocates global change through the power of positive thinking.
What will this 100 greatest guitarists do next? One can only imagine.
Jeff Bachmeier is owner of 977music.com, an online music and online radio station network providing live streaming Internet Radio channels with music from the 50’s thru Today. Users can also choose to create their own customized on demand playlist through their own social media profile. For more information please visit http://www.977music.com.