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Interview: Carlos Santana

Guitar legend to play Amalie Sunday, Counting Crows to Open


Humility and spirituality are the twin engines that drive Carlos Santana and the common thread that’s run through his creative and personal life dating back to when he started the Santana Blues Band a few years after his family moved to San Francisco from Mexico. 

With his 77th birthday arriving on July 20, Santana still possesses that sense of gratitude and wonderment as he discusses what fans can expect when they come out to see him on his Oneness tour, on which he’s joined by Counting Crows.

“Anyone coming out to see us play will receive the kind of energy that when you go home, you feel even better,” Santana said in an early June interview. “For me, I never look at what I do as entertainment or show business, though there is nothing wrong with it, but that’s not what I do. To me, it’s like going into a barrel and going over Niagara Falls. It’s about bringing the kind of energy that reminds the listener that you are divine, you are light and you have totality and absoluteness. At a Santana concert, there is no room for a victim mentality or sinner kind of thing. That’s a narrative that we don’t acknowledge. It’s a false illusion to believe that you are separate from the Creator. The main thing for me at a Santana concert is to be happy and to have fun. If you cannot do that, you’re probably at the wrong concert. Coming to a Santana concert is not to wallow and dwell in misery. No, no, no. We feel there’s an effervescence and energy that helps you. If you can conceive, you can achieve.”

This year also marks a milestone for Santana—the 25th anniversary of the release of 1999’s “Supernatural,” the band’s 18th album, which marked arguably the greatest comeback of the decade next to Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time.” In reuniting with label head Clive Davis, Santana released an album found him collaborating with a wide array of talent including Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas, Eric Clapton, Lauryn Hill and Dave Matthews. 

The commercial payoff led to 30 million copies of “Supernatural” sold worldwide, a pair of chart-topping singles (“Smooth” and “Maria Maria”) and nine Grammy Awards, making it the best-selling album by a Hispanic artist in music history. For Santana, the success came out of the synergy he and Davis had in working on this project.

“Everything that had to do with “Supernatural” had a lot to do with Clive Davis and the enthusiasm and the connections he has with and for me,” Santana said. “We both talked about it and he said he would bring some songs and I would bring some songs and we would meet in the middle. Like Nikola Tesla said, ‘Resonance, sound, vibration and frequency come together.’ With so many artists, their managers, the accountants and lawyers—all I had to do since I could remember was show up and complement it. Even before “Supernatural,” with “Abraxas,” all the way to the beginning, all that was asked of me as an individual was to show up, bring energy and complement. That’s pretty much where we are today.”

With so many accomplishments under his belt, Carlos Santana has been able to crystallize those experiences in a number of ways, including the 2015 memoir “The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light” or the 2023 documentary “Carlos.” Not coincidentally, Santana has spent the past decade-plus checking off creative boxes that include a House of Blues Las Vegas residency that recently hit the 10-year mark  and collaborating with The Isley Brothers on the 2017 album “The Power of Peace.” There was also 2016’s “Santana IV,” a project that reunited the artist with the early 1970s lineup of his band—Gregg Rolie, Michael Carabello, Michael Shrieve and Neil Schon—and included a subsequent tour. 

And while the 1969 Woodstock performance that broke Santana into the mainstream is a half-century-plus in the rearview mirror, it is a time and place that is inspiring the guitarist to reach for something that will give back in a way that offers hope and inspiration at a time when the world seems to be in as much conflict as when he hit the stage in Bethel, NY all those years ago.

“When you zero in on Woodstock, it was at the epicenter of the riots that were going on in Watts and Vietnam,” Santana pointed out. “There was a lot of turmoil in the ‘60s. When you see the concert at Woodstock, the square people were like, ‘How dare those hippies dance naked in the rain, make love and have fun. What is wrong with them?' And we were asking what was wrong with them. We were just enjoying life. After all these years, I’m planning to create a global Woodstock—a global world tour Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the best bands and the best songs. What I learned from Woodstock is that I want to create a global Woodstock that gets held in the best parks—San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, Central Park in Manhattan and Hyde Park in London. We can go around the globe and celebrate. Humans need to see and feel that we can get along. We need to have harmony in oneness. That’s what Santana is.”


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  • Cat L

    Mad respect. Love. :)

    Friday, June 14 Report this