Carlos Santana was just days away from releasing his debut album when he instantly made his mark in the rock canon at Woodstock in 1969. Rushed onstage for a Saturday-afternoon set, the little-known Mexican-American guitarist and his eponymous backing band ripped into a furious and innovative combination of psychedelic rock and Latin jazz. It was an auspicious start to a rich and varied career for Santana, who over 50-plus years has challenged the boundaries of rock, jazz fusion, and pop. Born on July 20, 1947, and raised in the cities of Tijuana and San Francisco, Santana grew up playing violin and guitar and formed the Santana Blues Band (soon shortened to Santana) in 1966. Backed by organs and Latin percussion, he drew equally from the mambo of Tito Puente and the blues-based improvisation of Jimi Hendrix in tracks like “No One to Depend On” and his iconic, guitar-driven take on Puente’s “Oye Como Va.” Later, he ventured into headier, spiritual-leaning jazz in collaborations with Alice Coltrane and John McLaughlin of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and then he successfully adapted to the ’80s pop landscape with the hook-oriented anthems of 1981’s Zebop!. By 1999, Santana had fully solidified his status as an elder statesman of rock—with his star-studded album Supernatural and its absurdly catchy single “Smooth,” he made clear that his supple, scorching licks will breathe life into any musical situation.
ORIGINSan Francisco, CA