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Carlos Santana

Carlos Augusto Selva Santana (born July 20, 1947) is a Mexican American rock guitarist. Santana became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band, Santana, which pioneered rock, salsa and jazz fusion.

Santana

Santana

Santana was signed by CBS Records and went into the studio to record their second album. They were not satisfied with the release and decided changes needed to be made. This resulted in the dismissal of Bob Livingston. Santana replaced him with Mike 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 Jose 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 the English band Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman" and a number-thirteen hit out of salsa legend Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va".

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 and 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, in time to complete the third album, Santana III. 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 III 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".

L to R: Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Santana (Mick Taylor not visible) in Hamburg, May 1984

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 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.

Updated: 2011-05-10 13:21:25