Carlos Augusto Santana Alves (born July 20 1947 in Autlán de Navarro, Mexico ) is a Grammy Award-winning Mexican rock musician and guitarist. He became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band, Santana, which created a highly successful blend of rock, blues, salsa, and jazz fusion. The band's sound featured his melodic, blues-based guitar lines set against Latin percussion such as timbales and congas. Santana continued to work in these forms over the following decades. He experienced a sudden resurgence of popularity and critical acclaim in the late 1990s. Rolling Stone also named Santana number 15 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time in 2003
At the end of 1966, guitarist Tom Frazier wanted to form his new rock band. Frazier joined Santana (on guitar/vocals), Mike Carabello (on percussion), Rod Harper (on drums), Gus Rodriguez (on bass guitar), and Seattle native Gregg Rolie (on organ/vocals), to form the Santana Blues Band. Santana has maintained that it was he and Rolie who were the most serious about music and pursuing it further, while the others were only interested in hanging out and being part of the scene. Santana himself was not viewed by the group as the actual leader of the band that had his name. The group operated as a collective, as it would through the early 1970s. The name of the band was agreed upon due to a local musicians union requirement that there be a designated leader and a name. He met Stan "Moon" Marcum who acted as the group's manager.
After a while, the group came to be known simply as "Blues Band". At this time it comprised Carlos Santana, Rolie, David Brown on bass guitar, Bob "Doc" Livingston on drums, and Marcus Malone on percussion. Santana's recording debut occurred as a guest on The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper.
There has always been speculation about how the band picked up its Latin influence, since, ironically, neither Santana nor Gregg Rolie had any affinity for the style in the first place. It is known they hung out often at San Francisco's Aquatic Park where conga players would get together and jam. Also, around this time, Santana was exposed to other types of music for the first time in this creative, musically-fertile city. Bay Area jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo became a favorite of Santana and featured congas on his 1966 album, Spellbinder.
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.
In 1970, the group reached its early commercial peak with their second album, Abraxas, which reached number one on the album charts and went on to sell over four million copies. Instrumental in the production of the album was pianist Alberto Gianquinto, who advised the group to stay away from lengthy percussion jams and concentrate on tighter song structures. The innovative Santana musical blend made a number-four hit out of the English band Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman" and a number-thirteen hit out of salsa legend Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va". Carlos Santana, alongside the classic Santana lineup of their first two albums, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. He performed "Black Magic Woman" with the writer of the song, Fleetwood Mac's founder Peter Green. Green was inducted the same night.
However, Woodstock and the band's sudden success put pressure on the group, highlighting the different musical directions in which Rolie and Santana were starting to go. Rolie, along with some of the other band members, wanted to emphasize a basic hard rock sound which had established the band in the first place. Santana on the other hand, was growing musically beyond his love of blues & rock and wanted more jazzy, ethereal elements in the music, which were influenced by his fascination with Miles Davis and John Coltrane, as well as his growing interest in spirituality and meditation. To further complicate matters, Chepito Areas was stricken with a near-fatal brain hemorrhage, and Santana wanted the band to continue performing by finding a temporary replacement (first Willie Bobo, then Coke Escovedo), while others in the band, especially Michael Carabello, felt it was wrong to perform publicly without Areas. Cliques formed, and the band started to disintegrate.
Teenage San Francisco Bay Area guitar prodigy Neal Schon was asked to join the band in 1971, though, at the time, he was also invited by Eric Clapton to join Derek and the Dominos. Choosing Santana, he joined in time to complete the third album, Santana 3. The band now boasted a powerful dual-lead-guitar act that gave the album a tougher sound. The sound of the band was also helped by the return of a recuperated Chepito Areas and the assistance of Coke Escovedo in the percussion section. Enhancing the band's sound further was the support of popular Bay Area group Tower of Power's horn section, Luis Gasca of Malo, and a number of friends who helped with percussion and vocals, injecting more energy to the proceedings. Santana 3 was another success, reaching number one on the album charts, selling two million copies, and yielding the hits "Everybody's Everything" and "No One to Depend On".
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 management of Stan Marcum, whom Bill Graham criticized as being incompetent. 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.
In January of 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.
In early 1972, Santana and the remaining members of the band started working on their fourth album, Caravanserai. During the studio sessions, Santana and Michael Shrieve brought in other musicians: percussionists James Mingo Lewis and Latin-Jazz veteran, Armando Peraza replacing Michael Carabello, and bassists Tom Rutley and Doug Rauch replacing David Brown. Also assisting on keyboards were Wendy Haas and Tom Coster. With the unsettling influx of new players in the studio, Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon decided that it was time to leave after the completion of the album, even though both made spectacular contributions to the session. Rolie left and went home to Seattle, opening a restaurant with his father, and later became a founding member of Journey (which Schon would later join as well).
When Caravanserai did emerge in 1972, it marked a strong change in musical direction towards jazz fusion. The album received critical praise, but CBS executive Clive Davis warned Santana and the band that it would sabotage the band's position as a Top Forty act. Nevertheless, over the years, the album would achieve platinum status. The difficulties Santana and the band went through during this period were chronicled in Ben Fong-Torres' Rolling Stone cover story "The Resurrection of Carlos Santana".
Around this time, Santana met Deborah King, whom he later married in 1973. She is the daughter of the late blues singer and guitarist Saunders King. They have three children: Salvador, Stella and Angelica. Together with wife Deborah, Santana founded a not-for-profit organization, the Milagro Foundation, which provides financial aid for educational, medical, and other needs. On October 19 2007, Deborah, his wife of 34 years, filed for divorce citing "irreconcilable differences".
In 1973, Santana, having obtained legal rights to the band's name, formed a new version of Santana, with Armando Peraza and Chepito Areas on percussion, Doug Rauch on bass, Michael Shrieve on drums, and Tom Coster and Richard Kermode on keyboards. Santana was later able to recruit jazz vocalist Leon Thomas for a tour of Japan, which was recorded for the live, sprawling, high-energy fusion album Lotus. CBS records would not allow its release unless the material was condensed. Santana did not agree to those terms, and the album was available in the U.S. only as an expensive, imported, three-record set. The group later went into the studio and recorded "Welcome", which further reflected Santana's interests in jazz fusion and his commitment to the spiritual life of Sri Chinmoy.
In 2008, He told the magazine Rolling Stone in an interview that he would hear Jesus' voice comforting him when he was becoming suicidal.
By this time, the Bill Graham's management company had assumed the affairs of the group. Graham was critical of Santana's direction into jazz and felt he needed to concentrate on getting Santana back into the charts with the edgy, street-wise ethnic sound that had made them famous. Santana himself was seeing that the group's direction was alienating many fans. Although the albums and performances were given good reviews by critics in jazz and fusion circles, sales had plummeted.
Santana along with Tom Coster, producer David Rubinson, and Chancler formed yet another version of Santana, adding vocalist Greg Walker. The 1976 album Amigos, which featured the songs "Dance, Sister, Dance" and "Let It Shine", had a strong funk and Latin sound. The album also received considerable airplay on FM album-oriented rock stations with the instrumental "Europa (Earth's Cry, Heaven's Smile)" and re-introduced Santana back into the charts. Rolling Stone magazine ran a second cover story on Santana entitled "Santana Comes Home".
The albums conceived through the late 1970s followed the same formula, although with several lineup changes. Among the personnel who came and left the band was percussionist Raul Rekow, who joined in early 1977 and remains to this day. Most-notable of the band's commercial efforts of this era was a version of the 1960s Zombies hit, "She's Not There", on the 1977 album Moonflower.
The relative success of the band's albums in this era allowed Santana to pursue a solo career funded by CBS. First, Oneness, Silver Dreams, Golden Reality in 1979 and The Swing of Delight in 1980, which featured some of his musical heroes: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams from Miles Davis' legendary 1960s quintet.
The pressures and temptations of being a high-profile rock musician and requisites of the spiritual lifestyle which guru Sri Chinmoy and his followers demanded, were great sources of conflict to Santana's and his marriage. He was becoming increasingly disillusioned with what he thought was Chinmoy's often-unreasonable rules imposed on his life, one being his refusal to allow Santana and Deborah to start a family. He felt too that his fame was being used to increase the guru's visibility. Santana and Deborah eventually ended their relationship with Chinmoy in 1982.
Although the band had concentrated on trying to produce albums with commercial appeal during the 1980s, changing tastes in popular culture began to reflect in the band's sagging record sales of their latest effort Beyond Appearances. In 1985, Bill Graham had to once again pull strings for Santana to convince principal Live Aid concert organizer Bob Geldof to allow the band to appear at the festival. The group's high-energy performance proved why they were still a top concert draw the world over despite their poor performance on the charts. Personally, Santana retained a great deal of respect in both jazz and rock circles, with Prince and guitarist Kirk Hammett of Metallica citing him as an influence.
The band Santana returned in 1986 with a new album Freedom. Buddy Miles, who was trying to revive his music career after spending much of the late 1970s and early 1980s incarcerated for drug charges, returned for lead vocals. His onstage presence provided a dose of charisma to the show; but, once again, the sales of the album fell flat.
Growing weary of trying to appease record company executives with formulaic hit records, Santana took great pleasure in jamming and making guest appearances with notables such as the jazz fusion group Weather Report, jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, Blues legend John Lee Hooker, Aretha Franklin, Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, and West African singer Salif Keita. He and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead later recorded and performed with Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji, who conceived one of Santana's famous 1960s drum jams, "Jingo". In 1988, Santana organized a reunion with past members from the Santana band for a series of concert dates. CBS records released a 20-year retrospective of the band's accomplishments with Viva Santana.
That same year Santana formed an all-instrumental group featuring jazz legend Wayne Shorter on tenor and soprano sax. The group also included Patrice Rushen on keyboards, Alphonso Johnson on bass, Armando Peraza and Chepito Areas on percussion, and Leon 'Ndugu' Chancler on drums. They toured briefly and received much acclaim from the music press, who compared the effort with the era of Caravanserai. Santana released another solo record, Blues for Salvador, which won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
In 1990, Santana left Columbia Records after twenty-two years and signed with Polygram. The following year, he made a guest appearance on Ottmar Liebert's album Solo Para Ti, on the songs "Reaching out 2 U" and on a cover of his own song, "Samba Pa Ti". In 1992, Santana hired jam band Phish as his opening act. He remains close to the band today, especially to guitarist Trey Anastasio.
Santana's record sales in the 1990s were very low. Toward the end of the decade he was without a contract. However, Arista Records' Clive Davis, who had worked with Santana at Columbia, signed him and encouraged him to record a star-studded album with mostly younger artists. The result was 1999's Supernatural, which included collaborations with Everlast, Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty, Eric Clapton, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, Cee-Lo, Maná, Dave Matthews, and others.
The lead single was "Smooth", a dynamic cha-cha stop-start number co-written and sung by Rob Thomas, and laced throughout with Santana's guitar fills and runs. The track's energy was immediately apparent on radio, and it was played on a wide variety of station formats. "Smooth" spent twelve weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming in the process the last #1 single of the 1990s. The music video set on a hot barrio street was also very popular. Supernatural reached number one on the US album charts and the follow-up single, "Maria Maria", featuring the R&B duo The Product G&B, also hit number one, spending ten weeks there in the spring of 2000. Supernatural eventually sold over 15 million copies in the United States, making it Santana's biggest sales success by far.
Supernatural won nine Grammy Awards (eight for Santana personally), including Album of the Year, Record of the Year for "Smooth", and Song of the Year for Thomas and Itaal Shur. Santana's acceptance speeches described his feelings about music's place in one's spiritual existence. In 2001, Santana's guitar skills were featured in Michael Jackson's song "Whatever Happens", from the album Invincible.
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, and "Why Don't You & I" written by and featuring Chad Kroeger from the group Nickelback (the original and a remix with Alex Band from the group The Calling were combined towards chart performance) which reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100. "The Game of Love" went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.
In 2005, Herbie Hancock approached Santana to collaborate on an album again using the Supernatural formula. Possibilities was released on August 30 2005, featuring Carlos Santana and Angélique Kidjo on "Safiatou".
Santana's 2005 album All That I Am consisting primarily of collaborations with other artists; the first single, the peppy "I'm Feeling You", was again with Michelle Branch and The Wreckers. Other musicians joining the mix this time included Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Kirk Hammett from Metallica, hip-hop/reggae star Sean Paul and R&B singer Joss Stone. In April and May of 2006, Santana toured Europe, where he promoted his son Salvador Santana's band as his opening act.
In 2007, Santana appeared, along with Sheila E. and Jose Feliciano, on Gloria Estefan's album 90 Millas, on the single "No Llores". He also teamed again with Chad Kroeger for the hit single "Into the Night."
On October 19, his wife of 34 years, Deborah, filed for divorce citing "irreconcilable differences".
In 2008, Santana is 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.
Santana currently endorses PRS Guitars, and is in fact one of Paul Reed Smith's first customers. He uses a Santana II model guitar using PRS Santana III pickups with nickel covers and a tremolo, with .009-.042 gauge D'Addario strings. His Signature Series models vary greatly from this in some cases, such as the Santana SE and Santana III guitars (which have ceased production). The Santana III has covered pickups instead, and no abalone stringers between the pickups (a feature unique to his official guitar). The Santana SE guitar has 22 frets,tremolo, a basic sunburst top, and a pickguard.
Santana's guitar necks and fretboards are constructed out of a single solid piece of Brazilian Rosewood, instead of the more traditional mahogany neck/Indian rosewood fretboard combination found in stock Santana models and other PRS guitars. The Brazilian Rosewood helps create the smooth, singing, glass-like tone that he is famous for.
Carlos Santana also uses a classical guitar, the Alvarez Yairi CY127CE with Alvarez tension nylon strings.
Previous setups include an Ibanez Tube Screamer right after the guitar.
In the song "Stand Up" from the album Marathon, Santana uses a Heil talk box in the guitar solo.
To play the track "Europa", Santana uses the Mesa Boogie Mark 1 at full volume, marking a position in front of the amplifier's speaker that allows him to use the acoustic feedback to produce long sustained notes, like that of a bowed viola. For "Bella" and "Samba Pa Ti", he uses the Fender Twin Reverb. Although his guitar technician, Renee Martinez says " Sometimes, he’ll only use the Boogie for most of the night, or he’ll use all three amps at once."
Santana claims to have come up with the idea of a sustain control (the splitting of Gain & Master Volume controls) for the Mesa Boogie [ref. as above]. He also put the Boogie in Mesa Boogie: 'Santana exclaimed to Smith, "Shit, man. That little thing really Boogies!" It was this statement that brought the Boogie name to fruition.'
Specifically, Santana combines a Mesa/Boogie Mark I head running through a Boogie cabinet with Altec 417-8H (or recently JBL E120s) speakers, and a Dumble Overdrive Reverb and/or a Dumble Overdrive Special running through a Brown or Marshall 4x12 cabinet with Celestion G12M "Greenback" speakers, depending on the desired sound. Shure KSM-32 microphones are used to pick up the sound, going to the PA. Additionally, a Fender Cyber-Twin Amp is mostly used at home.
Note: The singles Smooth, Maria Maria, and Into The Night have each been certified Platinum by the RIAA.