Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana in concert, 2000          Mention the name Carlos Santana and every Canadian and American will know exactly who you’re talking about. While many good musicians come and go after their 15 minutes of fame, there are a few who are here to stay. Carlos Santana is one of those.

Born Carlos Humberto Santana Barragán, the young man lived his early years in a small Mexican city, Autlán de Navarro, in the state of Jalisco. His father was a mariachi musician who taught young Carlos to play the violin and guitar at an early age. The young man wasn’t content to just play what was immediately available and began seeking out musicians who would influence his later career. From California pop star Richie Valens to BB King and John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and even Jimmy Hendrix, Santana absorbed music styles the way a sponge absorbs water. These influences would both bless and curse his career, though, over the years.

From Autlán, the Santana family moved to Tijuana, Mexico, near the American border and San Diego. Santana made the most of the opportunity, playing with a variety of bands until the family moved once again to the Bay area of San Francisco. Here he was invited along with other musicians to fill in for the Butterfield Blues Band, whose singer had shown up drunk and unable to perform. Santana made an immediate impresson upon the audience and Fillmore Auditorium owner Bill Graham with his unique blend of guitar playing. Santana joined several musicians he had met while performing on the street to form his first band, the Santana Blues Band.

The band was quickly signed to a contract by Columbia Records, who shortened the band name to “Santana”, began recording the band’s first record and got them a spot playing at the Woodstock Art and Music Festival (which would become one of the greatest and most influential concerts in music history). The concert was filmed and the band was included in the movie footage, making them international stars almost overnight. The pressure of the band’s sudden fame, however, led to problems within the band: drug use, artistic differences and personal conflicts that created a revolving door of band members.

On top of this, Carlos Santana wanted to experiment and push the boundaries of music. The band’s first few records sold well and produced hit songs such as “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va”. Their music combined traditional rock ‘n roll patterns with influences from jazz, blues, salsa and African-rhythm music. No one else was doing this and Carlos Santana became a distinct figure in the music industry right out of the gate.

His and the band’s fortunes wouldn’t last, though, and his creative experiments began to alienate fans; even though the band’s music was critically successful, record sales dropped and band members continued to come and go (two of whom would go on to create another successful rock band, Journey). Santana gained legal possession of the band’s name in 1973 and reformed the bank with new members. It didn’t help and sales continued to drop. Carlos Santana responded by releasing two solo albums in 1979 and 1980, and a third solo album in 1987.

Carlos’ solo work led to collaborations with a wide array of other musicians and a continued evolution in his style. The album Supernatural, released in 1999, contained collaborations with a who’s-who of musical talent and won a record 8 Grammy Awards, including album of the year.

Today, Carlos Santana is considered one of the greatest musicians of his time and is regularly sought out by musicians who want to work with him. His list of awards and accomplishments is legendary, even as he continues to work and perform from his new home in Las Vegas. His peers and fans all believe that his influence on contemporary music will be unmatched for a long, long time.

                             click on the links below to see the lyrics for the songs mentioned above: Black Magic Woman (lyrics); Oye Como Va (lyrics); Smooth (lyrics)


                                       mariachi: A Mexican music genre involving guitars, vocals violins and trumpets

                                       absorbed: To learn about something completely

                                       variety: A group of items belonging to a category but having some differences

                                       unique: Different or one of a kind

                                       influential: Having the ability to change something or influence it to change

                                       revolving door: A group where the members change frequently

                                       boundaries: Limitations; points where things stop moving or changing

                                       distinct: Noticeably different from everything else

                                       fortunes: Examples of wealth or luck

                                       experiments: Acts which are done to prove an idea or to discover something new

                                       critically successful: Admired by experts or critics, but not popular with most people


                                       Situation in which people work together to achieve a goal:

                                       evolution: The process of changing; the result of a changing situation or event

                                       peers: People who have the same social or professional status

                                       Downloadable Items

                                       article text
                                       story comprehension questions
                                       story comprehension answers

                                       YouTube Movie Clips

                                       Ritchie Valens - La Bamba (clip from the movie about Ritchie Valens)

                                       B. B. King - The Thrill Is Gone (Live at Montreux 1993)

                                       Santana IV - Black Magic Woman (2016)

                                       Oye Como Va ft. Carlos Santana & Cindy Blackman Santana | Playing For Change | Song Around The World

                                       (1999) Santana - Supernatural (Full Album)

                                       Santana - Smooth (Stereo) ft. Rob Thomas

                                       Article Research Sources

                                       Wikipedia - Carlos Santana

                                       Santana Official Website

                                       Far Out Magazine: Salvador Dalí: Why Carlos Santana compared the sound of the 1960s surrealist art

                                       Far Out Magazine: Carlos Santana picks his favourite guitarists of all time

                                       Las Vegas Magazine: Carlos Santana And Crew Are Back Onstage In Las Vegas Residency

                                       Always Classic X101: Santana’s ‘Supernatural’ Sweeps the Grammys

Last updated Friday, February 24, 2023
copyrighted © John Erick Kenmuir 2023