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Carlos Santana Biography

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Carlos Augusto Alves Santana (born July 20, 1947 in Autlán de Navarro, Mexico) is a Grammy Award-winning Mexican American musician and Latin-rock guitarist.

He became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band, the Santana Blues Band, which created a highly successful blend of salsa, rock, blues, and jazz fusion. Their sound featured his often high-pitched and clean guitar lines set against Latin instrumentation such as timbales and congas. Santana continued to work in these forms over the following decades, and experienced a sudden resurgence of popularity and critical acclaim in the late 1990s. Over his career he has sold an estimated 80 million albums world wide.

Santana was born in Autlán de Navarro, Mexico to a family with a musical background. He developed an early interest in music, taking up the violin at the age of five. It was when his family moved to Tijuana several years later, that Santana began his lifelong relationship with the guitar, the instrument that would make him a musical icon. He was fascinated and emulated his guitar heroes including John Lee Hooker, T. Bone Walker, and B.B. King, whom he heard on American radio stations from across the border. In 1961, Santana made the crossing himself, moving from Mexico to San Francisco, United States. After finally being convinced to stay in San Francisco by his family, he graduated from Mission High School in 1965. Carlos began helping the family out by working as a dishwasher and grew to enjoy the San Francisco music scene, often sneaking into Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium to listen to some of his favorites musical artist, including Muddy Waters, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Grateful Dead and many of the great rock, blues and jazz musicians who appeared there.

At the end of 1966, Tom Frazier (guitar) wanted to form a new rock band. Frazier joined Santana (guitar/vocals), Mike Carabello (percussion), Rod Harper (drums), Gus Rodriguez (bass guitar), and Seattle native Gregg Rolie (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. Carlos 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. During this time, his brother Jorge, a talented guitarist in his own right, became active in the music scene as well, performing with a band called The Malibu's. He later went on to start the Latin-rock group Malo, which was briefly popular in the early 1970s.

After a while the name of the band was known simply as "Santana", dropping 'Blues Band' from their title. At this time the group's lineup consisted of Carlos Santana, Rolie, with David Brown on bass, Bob 'Doc' Livingston on drums, and Marcus Malone on percussion. Promoter Bill Graham heard them and let them perform at the Fillmore (later Fillmore West). Carlos' recording debut occurred as a guest on The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper with Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield, who were also Fillmore regulars.

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 being exposed to other types of music for the first time in the creative, musically fertile city. Bay Area jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo became a favorite of Santana and featured congas on his 1966 album, 'Spellbinder'. But more importantly he soon realized that, when they had Latin percussion in the band, the girls would dance to their music by gyrating their hips wildly like belly dancers. Santana found that the latin precussion became a success with the audience and he added it to their musical style.

Santana was signed to Columbia Records (CBS), and went into the studio to record their first album. They were not satisfied with the results, and realized changes needed to be made. This resulted in the dismissal of Livingston. Replacing him with Michael Shrieve who had a strong background in both jazz and rock. Marcus Malone was forced to quit the band due to personal problems and the band re-enlisted Michael Carabello. Carabello brought with him percussionist José Chepito Areas who was already well known in his country Nicaragua, and with his skills and professional experience, was a major contributor to the band.

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 English blues-rockers Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman", and a number-thirteen hit out of salsa legend Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va". Abraxas has since been placed on several "best albums of all time" lists. The classic Santana lineup of their first two albums was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

However, Woodstock and the success of the first two albums began to put pressure on the group, and highlighted 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. Carlos 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 religion and meditation. To further complicate matters, Chepito Areas was stricken with a near fatal brain hemorrhage and Carlos wanted the band to continue performing by finding a temporary replacement, (First Willie Bobo, which didn't work out, then Coke Escovedo) while many in the band especially Michael Carabello, felt it was wrong to perform publicly without Areas. Cliques began to form among some of the members and the band had started to disintegrate.

A teenage San Francisco Bay Area guitar prodigy, Neal Schon, was asked to join the band in 1971, he was also asked by Eric Clapton to join Derek and the Dominos. Choosing Santana, he joined in time to help 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 with the return of a recuperated Chepito Areas and the assistance of Coke Escovedo in the percussion section. Even further still was the support of popular bay area group Tower of Power's horn section, Luis Gasca of Malo, and a list 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 producing the hit singles "Everybody's Everything" and "No One to Depend On".

But tension in the band continued. Along with musical differences, drug use among some of the members became a problem, and Santana was deeply worried it was affecting the performance of the band. Coke Escovedo encouraged Santana to take more control of the band's musical direction much to the dismay of some of the others, who were under the understanding 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 once and for all changes needed to be made in the band and his life.

In January 1972, Santana, Neal Schon and Coke Escovedo joined former Band of Gypsies drummer Buddy Miles for a live 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.

Santana and the remaining members of the band started working on a new, fourth, album, Caravanserai. During the studio sessions in early 1972, 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 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 Carlos and the band that it would sabotage Santana's position as a top forty act, even though over the years the album would achieve platinum status. The difficulties Santana and the band went through during this period were chronicled in writer 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, including Salvador, Stella and Angelica. Together with wife Deborah, Santana founded a nonprofit organisation called "The Milagro Foundation" that provides financial aid for educational, medical and other needs of children worldwide.

In 1972 Santana became a huge fan of the pioneering fusion band, The Mahavishnu Orchestra and its guitarist John McLaughlin. Knowing Santana's interest in meditation, McLaughlin introduced Santana and Deborah to his guru, Sri Chinmoy. Chinmoy later accepted them as disciples in 1973 and Santana was given the name "Devadip" - meaning "The lamp and eye of God." Santana and McLaughlin recorded an album together,"Love, Devotion, Surrender" with members of Santana and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, along with percussionist Don Alias and organist Larry Young, who both had made an appearance on Miles Davis' classic Bitches Brew record in 1969.

In 1973 Santana, having obtained legal rights to the band's name, formed a new version of Santana. Armando Peraza and Chepito Areas on percussion, Doug Rauch on bass, Michael Shrieve on drums, with Tom Coster and Richard Kermode on keyboards. Carlos was later able to recruit jazz vocalist Leon Thomas for a tour of Japan, which was recorded for a 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 only as an expensive import 3 record set. The group later went into the studio and recorded "Welcome", which further reflected Carlos' interests in jazz fusion and his commitment to the spiritual life of Sri Chinmoy.

More radio friendly singles followed from Santana the band. "Winning" in 1981 and "Hold On" in 1982 both reached the top twenty. After his break with Sri Chinmoy, Santana went into the studio to record another solo album with Keith Olson and legendary R&B producer Jerry Wexler. The 1983 album revisited Santana's early musical experiences in Tijuana with Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love" and the title cut, Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon". The album's guests included Booker T. Jones, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Willie Nelson and even his father's mariachi orchestra. Santana again paid tribute to his early rock roots by doing the film score to "La Bamba", starring Lou Diamond Phillips, which was based on the tragically short life of rock and roll legend Richie Valens.

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 its poor performance on the charts. 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 and his friendship with Miles Davis, who by the 1980s had staged a comeback but was in increasingly poor health.

The Santana band returned in 1986 with a new album Freedom. For lead vocals, He brought back Buddy Miles, who was trying to revive his music career after spending much of the late 1970s and early 1980s incarcerated for drug charges. His onstage presence provided a dose of charisma to the show, but once again the sales of the album fell flat. And there was a very beautiful girl that came into his life named Ashli Aviles and they were to work on music for the next ten years until she would become soloist.

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, fusion group Weather Report, jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, Blues legend John Lee Hooker, Aretha Franklin, Living Color guitarist Vernon Reid, and West African singer Salif Kieta. He and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead later recorded and performed with Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji, who conceived one of Santana's famous drum jams of the 1960s, "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".

The 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 Ndugu Leon Chancler on drums. They toured briefly and received much acclaim from the music press, who compared the effort with the era of "Caravanserai." He released another solo record "Blues for Salvador" winning a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance

In 1990, he left Columbia Records after twenty-two years and signed with Polygram. In 1991, Santana made a guest appearance on Ottmar Liebert's album Solo Para Ti, on the songs "Reaching out 2 U" and a cover of his own song, "Samba Pa Ti". In 1992 he hired soon-to-be legendary rock band Phish as his opening act. He remains close to the band today, especially guitarist Trey Anastasio.

Santana's record sales in the 1990s had been very low, and towards 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 in 1999 was Supernatural, which included collaborations with Bobby Martin, Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, Eric Clapton, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, Maná, Dave Matthews, KC Porter[1], and others.

The first 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 was played on a wide variety of station formats. It spent twelve weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming in the process the last #1 single of the 1990s; a music video set on a hot barrio street was also very popular. Supernatural sold a large numbers of records and soon reached the triple platinum status. The album also reached number one on the US album charts. The follow-up single, "Maria Maria", arranged by Bobby Martin and featuing the R&B duo The Product G&B, also reached number one and spent ten weeks there in the summer of 2000. Supernatural eventually sold over 15 million copies in the United States alone, making it Santana's biggest sales success by far.

Supernatural and the different tracks on it then 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 was featured in Michael Jackson's song Whatever Happens, from the album Invincible, playing guitar.

In 2002, Santana released Shaman, revisiting the Supernatural format of guest artists including P.O.D., Seal, and others. Although the album was not the runaway success its predecessor had been, it still produced two radio-friendly hits: the infectious "The Game of Love" featuring Michelle Branch which reached 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 and I" featuring either Chad Kroeger from Nickelback or Alex Band from The Calling (the original and a remix with a different singer 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 August 2003, Santana was named fifteenth on Rolling Stone magazine's "List of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".

In 2005, Herbie Hancock approached Santana to play on, as well as to help in gathering other artists to record, an album similar to Supernatural. The resulting album, titled Possibilities, was released on August 30, 2005, featuring Carlos Santana and Angélique Kidjo on "Safiatou".

Santana's album All That I Am (2005) followed the format of Supernatural and Shaman, consisting primarily of collaborations with other artists; the first single, the peppy "I'm Feeling You", was again with Michelle Branch and The Wreckers. Another song on the album, "Trinity," featured Carlos collaborating with Kirk Hammett of Metallica and Robert Randolph of Robert Randolph & the Family Band. Also, he recorded "Illegal" featuring Colombian singer Shakira.

In April and May 2006 he started a tour in Europe where he promoted the band of his son Salvador Santana as his opening act.

In 2000, Santana introduced a line of women's shoes that bear his name. The label remains sold in department stores today.
 
 
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