Carlos Santana was first recognized on the rock circuit in the late 1960s. But with songs like "Smooth" on the "Supernatural" album recorded in 1999, he has literally eclipsed his earlier successes and has once again found his way to the top of the charts.
Carlos was born in 1947 in the small Mexican village of Autlan. Traditional Latin music has always been present throughout Santana's life and was first introduced to him by his father, a mariachi violinist. When Carlos and his family relocated to the Mexican border town of Tijuana in 1955, he was avidly listening to the music of B.B. King and T. Bone Walker, among others, on the radio. The young Carlos had also taken up guitar playing and was trained by his father. With the popular sounds of rock calling to him through the radio, Santana discovered that his true desire was to break away from traditional Latin music and into the realm of rock. During the 1950's, Carlos played with local Tijuana bands like the T.J.s before moving to San Francisco in 1961.
Santana immediately became involved in the thriving San Francisco Bay music scene and by 1966 had formed his first band, the Santana Blues Band with David Brown, Gregg Rollie, Rod Harper and Tom Franzer. This group mainly performed the music of Ray Charles and B.B. King.
By May of 1968, the band was reorganized and consisted of Jose Cheptio Areas, Mike Carabello and Michael Shrieve as well as the original Santana, Rollie and Brown. The band was a hit and found itself playing at venues as impressive as the Fillmore West (where they performed with the Who) and the generation-defining Woodstock. Like bands such as Sly and the Family Stone, Santana brought in and successfully integrated cultural and racial issues. The influences of Latin music can be felt in Carlos' music, an element that may arguably be even more evident in the artist's current work.
In 1969, the Santana Blues Band, now shortened to simply Santana, was signed to its first record deal with Columbia under which they produced "Abraxas" in 1970. This album, which achieved quadruple platinum status, boasted the hit single, "Evil Ways." Other very notable songs that were included on this album are "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va."
In 1971, they released an improvisational album, "Live!", then went on in 1972 to produce "Caravanserai", which further displayed the band's interest in fusion jazz.
1972 was also a trying year for the band as disagreements between Santana and Rollie nearly destroyed the group. Finally, Rollie departed because of the emphasis on fusion jazz and Carlos was left to completely reconstruct the band. With all new members, Santana continued on, this time with a stronger emphasis on Latin music. Although albums such as "Welcome" (1973) and 1974's "Greatest Hits" were released, Santana was once again faced with having to reform his band in 1975 after several of his members left to form the band, Journey. The album "Borboletta" (1975) was created under a new arrangement of members only to see another reformation in 1976.
The 1976 revamping included not only new members, but also a new sound. Santana had once again chosen to go back to rock spiced with Rhythm and Blues. During the 1970s and 1980s, while the band continued to tour, they underwent several more member changes. Santana suffered a loss of popularity when their 1978 album, "Inner Secrets", appeared on the disco-rock scene. In the 1980's, the band tried to integrate itself into the pop sound and added synthesized keyboards to their instrumentals only to slip further into despair with the album, "Beyond Appearances." A resurgence in popularity was enjoyed in 1987 with the album, "Freedom."
While Carlos Santana has continued to tour and record with a variety of band members, often producing a form of Latin inspired fusion jazz, and was widely recognized as an important and innovative guitar player, he did not experience extreme success again until the release of the "Supernatural" album in 1999.
Some may consider Santana to be a late bloomer, with "Supernatural" being his 36th album, but one can certainly not deny his success. This album has sold over 10 million copies and has won nine Grammys as icing on the cake. Santana collaborates with a number of younger musicians on this album, which has cuts with Dave Matthews, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, Everlast and Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, who collaborated on "Smooth." "Smooth" itself managed the feat of remaining in the number one spot in the Billboard's Hot 100 chart for 12 consecutive weeks. In addition to its commercial success, the album has garnered new critical acclaim for Santana, who worked for almost 30 years between hit albums.
A current discography of music by Santana appears on AllMusic
Page author: N.G. & C.F.