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Formed 1967, San Francisco, California

Original lineup: Carlos Santana (b. July 20, 1947, Autlan de Navarro, Mex.), gtr., voc., perc.;
Gregg Rolie (b. June 17, 1947, Seattle, Wash.), kybds., voc.;
David Brown (b. Feb. 15, 1947, N.Y.), bass;
Michael Shrieve (b. July 6, 1949, San Francisco), drums;
Mike Carabello (b. Nov. 18, 1947, San Francisco), perc.;
Jose Chepito Areas (b. July 25, 1946, Leon, Nicaragua), perc.




Through a long, erratic career laden with personnel changes, the group Santana has maintained popularity and critical respect with what was in the beginning an innovative fusion of rock, fiery Afro-Latin polyrhythms, and contrasting cool, low-key vocals. In time, group leader/guitarist Carlos Santana was drawn to jazz-rock fusion and worked outside the band with John McLaughlin, Stanley Clarke, and others. Though the mid-Seventies saw Santana becoming involved in spiritual mysticism (he affixed "Devadip" before his name), by the decade’s end the band was back in hard-driving rhythmic form and chalked up several hit dance singles. The group continued to perform off and on into the Nineties; in 1994, Santana appeared at Woodstock ‘94, one of three acts that had performed at the original ‘69 festival that were asked to return to the 25th anniversary concert.

The band evolved in San Francisco’s Latin district from jam sessions between Santana, David Brown, and Gregg Rolie. With original drummer Rod Harper and rhythm guitarist Tom Frazer, they became the Santana Blues Band. Though the soft-spoken Santana felt uncomfortable as leader, he lent his name to the group because the local musicians union required that each band have a designated leader. The group’s 1968 debut at San Francisco’s Fillmore West (by which time it had become known simply as Santana) won it a standing ovation; through its local popularity, it won a spot in the lineup at Woodstock, where it stopped the show. The instrumental "Soul Sacrifice," featuring Michael Shrieve’s drum solo, is one of the high points of the Woodstock soundtrack album.

Santana’s overwhelming success at the festival led to a deal with Columbia, and within a few weeks of its late-summer 1969 release its debut LP was #4 and eventually went double platinum. That album’s "Evil Ways" was a Top Ten single in early 1970. Abraxas, released later that year, sold four million copies and lodged at #1 on the album chart for six weeks; Santana IlI, the first to feature 16-year-old second guitarist Neal Schon, topped the chart for five weeks in late 1971. Abraxas yielded hits such as "Black Magic Woman" (#4, 1970), previously recorded by Fleetwood Mac, and veteran salsa bandleader Tito Puente’s "Oye Como Va" (#13, 1971), while Santana III contained "Everybody’s Everything" (#12, 1971) and "No One to Depend On" (#36, 1972). Caravanserai went platinum; Welcome, gold. Both LPs saw Santana’s music stretching out into jazzier directions, and the band’s personnel changed considerably with every album. Neal Schon and keyboardist Gregg Rolie went on to found Journey; Shrieve played various sessions, including Stomu Yamashta’s Go series, and formed Automatic Man and, later, Novo Combo.

In 1972 Carlos Santana made his first recording outside the band, a live album with Buddy Miles. Though dismissed by critics, it too sold well, eventually going platinum. The fusion supersession Love, Devotion, Surrender found the guitarist playing with John McLaughlin, Jan Hammer, and Billy Cobham of the Mahavishnu Orchestra; Stanley Clarke of Return to Forever; and Larry Young of the Tony Williams Lifetime.

In 1974 Santana collaborated with Alice Coltrane and ex-Miles Davis jazz bassist David Holland, among others, for the string-dominated Illuminations; it didn’t sell as well as Love, Devotion, Surrender, which had gone gold.

Borboletta featured contributions from Clarke and Brazilian musicians Airto Moreira and Flora Purim. Lotus stands out in Santana’s mid-Seventies period; the three-record set was released in Japan in 1974 but unavailable in America until 1991. By the late Seventies Santana had tightened up his band into a funkier direction, and enjoyed a hit single with a cover of the Zombies’ mid-Sixties hit "She’s Not There" (#27,1977), featuring singer Greg Walker. After two more jazz-fusion solo LPs, Oneness and The Swing of Delight -- the latter featuring such fusion stars and former Miles Davis sidemen as Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Ron Carter, and Weather Report reedman Wayne Shorter -- the Santana band’s Zebop! became a big seller on the strength of "Winning" (#17, 1981), written by ex-Argent guitarist Russ Ballard; the following year’s Shango added another Top Twenty hit, "Hold On," with a lead vocal by Alex Ligertwood. Havana Moon featured guests Willie Nelson and the Texas blues band the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Santana appeared at Live Aid in 1985. To celebrate its 20th anniversary the next year, the band played a special San Francisco performance that featured all previous Santana members. Freedom reunited Carlos Santana with Buddy Miles, who contributed vocals. The title track of Carlos Santana’s eighth solo recording, Blues for Salvador, won a 1987 Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. An acclaimed career retrospective box set, Viva Santana!, was released in 1988. Carlos Santana hooked up with Miles Davis/Weather Report saxophonist Wayne Shorter for a 1988 summer tour.

Spirits Dancing in the Flesh (1990) featured guest appearances by Bobby Womack and Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, who played on "Jin-Go-Lo-Ba," a reworking of "Jingo," a Santana favorite from the first album. In 1992, after a 20-year association with Columbia Records, Santana moved to PolyGram, appearing first on Polydor, then on Island. Sacred Fire -- Live in South America attested to the band’s tremendous popularity in Latin America. Carlos Santana announced plans in 1993 to start his own specialty label, Guts and Grace, to release jazz and world music and selections from his extensive private collection of live performance recordings, including artists as diverse as Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

In 1999 Santana struck gold and made it back to the top with his his album  Supernatural and stole the grammies with his show stealing number Smooth featuring Rob Thomas from the music group Matchbox 20.

1969 -- Santana (Columbia)
1970 -- Abraxas
1971 -- ( + Neal Schon [b. Feb. 27, 1954]; + Coke Escovedo [b. Thomas Escovedo, Apr. 30, 1941, Calif.; d. July 13, 1985, Calif.], perc.) Santana III ( - Brown; + Tom Rutley, bass)
1972 -- Caravanserai
1973 -- Welcome
1974 -- Greatest Hits; Borboletta
1976 -- Amigos; Festival
1977 -- Moonflower
1978 -- Inner Secrets
1979 -- Marathon
1981 -- Zebop!
1983 -- Shango
1985 -- Beyond Appearances
1987 -- Freedom
1988 -- Viva Santana!
1990 -- Spirits Dancing in the Flesh
1991 -- Lotus

Carlos Santana solo:
1972 -- Carlos Santana with Buddy Miles Live (Columbia)
1973 -- Love, Devotion, Surrender (with John McLaughlin)
1974 -- Illuminations (with Turiya Alice Coltrane)
1979 -- Oneness; Silver Dreams-Golden Reality
1980 -- The Swing of Delight
1983 -- Havana Moon
1987 -- Blues for Salvador
1992 -- Milagro (Polydor)
1993 -- Sacred Fire-Live in South America
1994 -- Brothers (Island)
1999 -- Supernatural

 


 

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