Born in the Mexican village of Autlan De Navarro on July 20, 1947,
Carlos Santana's earliest musical influence was his father José,
an accomplished mariachi violinist, who introduced him to traditional
Mexican music. When he was eight, his family relocated to Tijuana.
It was in this border town that young Carlos heard the sounds
of blues greats John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, and T-Bone Walker
on local radio stations.
He had initially taken up the violin, but switched to guitar
to emulate his new musical heroes. Just a few years later, he
began performing with local bands like The T.J.s along the vibrant
In 1961, Santana joined the rest of his family, who had moved
to San Francisco the previous year. In 1966, amid the growing
Bay Area rock scene, the Santana Blues Band made their debut performance.
By 1969, they had earned a reputation as a solid live act, and
graduated to the main stage at the historic Woodstock Festival.
The Santana Band's eponymous debut for Columbia entered the charts
a month after their Woodstock appearance, and would go on to sell
over two million copies during its two-year run on the charts.
The album also produced the band's first big radio hit, as "Evil
Ways" broke into the top ten. Santana's sophomore release,
Abraxas (1970), did even better, topping the Billboard album chart
for six weeks, and going quadruple platinum in the process. The
album contained the hit singles "Black Magic Woman"
and a cover of Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va."
Santana III was the No. 1 record for five weeks during the fall
of '71. Carlos followed this up with a 1972 collaboration with
drummer Buddy Miles, who had previously played with Jimi Hendrix.
The Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles: Live! album, recorded in
Hawaii's Diamond Head volcanic crater, followed its predecessors
into the top ten.
While the hit singles may have dried up by this point in his
career, Santana continued to release top-selling albums through
the remainder of the '70s. With his band, highlights include Caravanserai
(1972), Borboletta (1974), Amigos (1976), and the double live
Moonflower (1977). He also released instrumental, jazz-fusion
collaborations like Love Devotion Surrender (1973) with Mahavishnu
John McLaughlin, and Illuminations (1974) with Turiya Alice Coltrane,
where he was credited as "Devadip Carlos Santana." In
1977, Santana became the first band to receive CBS's Crystal Globe
Award for selling over five million records internationally.
While the Santana Band was still a top concert draw, by the time
the '70s became the '80s, it seemed that Carlos' days as a major
force on the album charts had severely waned. In 1980, he produced
a more straight-ahead jazz album, The Swing of Delight, with former
Miles Davis sidemen (and stars in their own right) Herbie Hancock,
Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams.
Santana experienced a mini-comeback with the release of 1981's
Zebop!. The album became his first to crack the top 10 in several
years, and produced a top 20 single in "Winning." The
band followed this up with Shango (1982), while Carlos' 1983 solo
effort, Havana Moon, included collaborations with country star
Willie Nelson, R&B legend Booker T. Jones, and blues-rockers
The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
On July 20, 1986, the Santana Band celebrated their 20th anniversary
with a concert in San Francisco, reuniting all 17 past and present
members on stage. The following year found the guitar master contributing
to the score of La Bamba, the film about Mexican-American rock
'n' roll pioneer Ritchie Valens. That same year, he participated
in the Rock 'n' Roll Summit, the first-ever joint US-Soviet rock
concert. A Santana Band album, Freedom (1987), was quickly followed
up with Carlos' solo effort, Blues For Salvador (1987), which
earned Carlos his first Grammy in the category of Best Rock Instrumental.
Santana kicked off his fourth decade in music with Spirits Dance
In The Flesh (1990), which was also his final album for the Columbia
label. He signed with Polydor, which created his own custom label,
"Guts and Grace," and released Milagro in 1992. The
following year's Sacred Fire: Live In South America was followed
by Brothers (1994), a family affair featuring nephew Carlos Hernandez
and brother Jorge. On August 14, 1994, Santana and his band performed
at Woodstock II, 25 years after their breakthrough performance
at the original festival.
In 1996, Santana received Billboard magazine's Century Award
for lifetime achievement. Two years later, he was inducted into
the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Also in '98, señor Santana
and wife Deborah created the Milagro Foundation, which supports
educational efforts to help youngsters live healthy, literate
and culturally enriched lives. The guitarist's personally designed
line of footwear, "Carlos" by Carlos Santana, appeared
in stores around this time. A portion of the proceeds from shoe
sales is donated to the foundation.
Santana released his debut album for Arista Records in June 1999.
Supernatural would go on to be the crowning glory of his 30 years
as a recording artist, becoming his first chart-topper since 1971.
The album went on to sell over 20 million copies worldwide, produce
two long running No. 1 singles ("Smooth" and "Maria,
Maria," for 12 and 10 weeks respectively), and win an incredible
nine Grammys in February 2000 (eight of which went to Carlos),
including Album, Record and Song of the Year (the latter two for
In October 2002, Shaman entered the Billboard album charts at
No. 1. The disc, like its predecessor, included collaborations
with diverse artists such as Chad Kroeger, Musiq and Dido. "The
Game Of Love," featuring Michelle Branch on vocals, made
the top five on the singles charts. Santana recently recorded
a song, "Whatever Happens," with Michael Jackson, which
can be found on the King of Pop's Invincible. Just the adjective
to describe Santana himself.