Happy Birthday, Carlos Santana

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Santana 1969 album coverThe groundbreaking guitarist who expanded rock music with Latin, jazz and Afro-Cuban styles, to name some but hardly all, came into the world in Autlán de Navarro in the Mexican state of Jalisco on July 20, 1947. Named in full Carlos Augusto Alves Santana, he was preceded by a long paternal line of musicians. His mariachi violinist father started teaching him that instrument at age 5, but it was the guitar that he took to three years later around the time his family moved to Tijuana in 1955.

He performed with his father on the street and played in strip bars as a youngster in the border town. His early influences included blues guitarists B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and T-Bone Walker and rock ‘n’ roll acts like Ritchie Valens and Little Richard.

In the early 1960s his family moved to San Francisco, where Carlos learned English and graduated from Mission High School. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1965, and worked as a dishwasher and played as a street musician prior to forming the Santana Blues Band in 1966.

Related: Santana’s musician brother, Jorge, died in 2020

Three years later, with the group’s name shortened to Santana, his band became one of the breakout acts at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, releasing its debut album later that month, which yielded the Top 10 pop single “Evil Ways.”

Related: Our interview with Carlos Santana

Santana’s Supernatural album is his most successful commercially. The 1999 release included the hit “Smooth” (with vocals by Rob Thomas), which spent 12 weeks on top of the U.S. pop singles chart. The follow-up, “Maria Maria,” also reached #1, the band’s only two chart-toppers of their lengthy career. Their success made Supernatural a runaway smash with worldwide sales of a reported 30 million copies, earning eight Grammy Awards in the process, including the prestigious Album of the Year.

In 2016, Santana reunited the early ’70s lineup of Carlos Santana (guitar, vocals), Gregg Rolie (keyboards, lead vocals), Neal Schon (guitar, vocals), Michael Carabello (percussion) and Michael Shrieve (drums) to record a new studio album Santana IV, marking the first time in 45 years – since 1971’s multi-platinum classic Santana III – that the classic rock quintet has recorded together.

Related: Review of Santana IV

He proposed to his band’s drummer, Cindy Blackman, while they were on stage in 2010. They were married later that year.

To date, Santana has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide and won countless awards. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

After he collapsed on stage due to dehydration and exhaustion in July 2022, Santana has resumed his tour. Tickets are available here and here.

Best Classic Bands Staff

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  1. dennisl59
    #1 dennisl59 20 July, 2018, 08:01

    Brother Neal Schon did Carlos a huge favor with Santana IV…It’s an incredible album and the live DVD is terrific. Happy Birthday Carlos~!

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