For more than 40 years, Carlos Augusto Alves Santana has pushed the envelope of rock guitar by melding blues, jazz fusion, R&B and salsa into a level of creativity that has been seldom paralleled by any other musician of his generation. As a Grammy Award-winning musician and Latin-rock guitarist, Santana has epitomized the sound of music by blending the elements of varying styles into one unique component. His approach to his craft is well known and documented; yet even by today’s standards, Carlos Santana continues to re-invent himself by crossing endless boundaries of cultural influences. As a musical icon, his status amongst his world-class fans is immeasurable; however, even in the midst of his iconic fame, Carlos remains humble and reserved in his quest to be one of the great innovators of our time. Although Santana has been duly anointed as a rock guitarist, his music transcends the limitations of any particular genre and he definitely operates outside the commonality of just another guitarist.
Born July 20, 1947 in Autlan de Navarro, Mexico, Carlos began his musical journey at age five in learning to play the violin. As the son of a prominent Mariachi violinist, it seemed only the natural of things to come for him to follow in the footsteps of his father. After moving to Tijuana, Mexico a number of years later, Carlos transferred his violin education to an ongoing and highly evolved pursuit of the guitar. As he perfected his skills, Santana drew upon the talents of John Lee Hooker, T. Bone Walker and B.B. King for inspiration. Ultimately, these three blues musicians would always serve as his heroes as he moved onward and upward across the musical expanse of creativity. While living in Mexico, Carlos would spend countless hours listening to powerful radio stations broadcasting in the United States in order to gain additional exposure to varying guitar chords and riffs. What he heard and learned from these early encounters would later develop into the most recognized sound in the annals of contemporary music, which has been described as a clean fluid-like high-pitched guitar line with a backdrop of percussive Latin rhythms. In 1961, Carlos moved to San Francisco, California where he began to pursue a new level of illumination that would lay the framework for the highest level of acceptance. The exploration and pursuit of new and different ways to combine his myriad of influences and meld them into an individualized patented approach would set the stage for everything imaginable domestically, internationally and cosmically. At various times during Carlos’ career, especially at the peak of his live performances, his sound has often been labeled interplanetary.
The sixties were a time of change in the overall music industry. There was the British invasion of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and a host of other creative forces driving the entire scene in a new direction. In the United States and especially so in the Bay Area things were flipping in much the same way with groups like the Jimmy Hendrix Experience, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and others. By 1969, Santana had moved beyond the confines of the San Francisco Bay Area music scene with his band the Santana Blues Band. Members of the group included Tom Frazier, Mike Carabello, Rod Harper and Gregg Rolie. Appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and at the 1969 Woodstock Festival culminated with the release of his first album entitled ‘Santana,’ which announced to the world that the era of Carlos Santana had been launched and was now in geocentric orbit. Since those humble beginnings, Santana has released more than 35 solo albums, or has produced, collaborated and played with numerous artists during his 40-plus years as a guitarist. Recordings such as ‘Abraxas,’ ‘Welcome,’ ‘Marathon,’ ‘Blues for Salvador’ and all his other albums have garnered Santana numerous accolades and successes. One recording in particular that was released in 1999 entitled ‘Supernatural’ sold more than 90 million albums and received a record tying nine Grammy Awards for a single project. Carlos has also won three Latin Grammy Awards in other categories and took home another trophy in 2001 for the single entitled "The Game of Love" from the ‘Shaman’ CD. His latest release for Arista Records entitled ‘All That I Am’ is Santana’s 38th album. This is another groundbreaking effort containing numerous collaborations with a very diverse group of artists. Included are the talents of Los Lonely Boys, Mary J. Blige, Steve Tyler of Aerosmith and Joss Stone, which provides a collaborative flow with a special twist. On one track entitled "I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love," Carlos and Los Lonely Boys add the influences of Tex Mex to an alternating rock rhythm style; a situation that was very exciting for Santana, seeing as how he loves to bring a level of diversity to his music. As one examines the overall impact Santana has had on the music industry as a whole, his status as the consummate crossover having mass appeal is without question.
Carlos Santana’s ability to transcend the boundaries of his humble beginnings has long since carried over into his music. As a trendsetter, Santana speaks a message that translates on levels easily communicated along cultural lines. No matter what the musical influence is, Carlos’ ideas somehow come together in keeping with his Latin heritage. In addition, his trademark sound compliments the very essence of his musical landscape in a manner whereas mosaic references he has already created provide a continuous map for future journeys. His guitar lines are snapshots of his spiritual excursion through life, yet he operates on a plane that allows him to have a vision of what comes next. When examining 40 years of excellence, anyone within earshot of Carlos Santana will become a fan at the onset of his or her first encounter. The iconic stature of Carlos Santana is well known; however, the true nature of what we can expect from him as an artistic creative genius continues to be an ever evolving possibly. The only thing anyone can do is wait for what comes next from music’s premier guitarist.