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Andrew Blitman likes to draw and write about philosophy, poetry, and science. The author of two books, he will graduate from the University of Miami in May 2014 with a Masters of Professional Science degree in Marine Affairs. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail him at thewrittenblit@gmail.com.

Carlos Santana, the Guitar Legend

Deutsch: Carlos Santana am 21. Januar 2000 in ...

Deutsch: Carlos Santana am 21. Januar 2000 in München, Muffat-Halle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The guitar is an imperious and sleek instrument. A bellowing wooden frame exudes a dominating aura in the music world. He who wields its aura asserts tremendous rhythmic power. Some people understand the power of the guitar; others have gone further and mastered it. These people are virtuosos, the true gods of “rock and roll”. And when one thinks of a “rock and roll” god, who comes to mind? Many think Eric Clapton. Others think Pete Townshend. However, in the world of modern music one name stands out from the rest—Carlos Santana.

Santana was born in Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco, Mexico, in 1947. The son of a mariachi violinist, Carlos learned to play the violin when he was five years old. Three years later, he learned to play the guitar. His love for the guitar was great, even at such a young age. The success of Ritchie Valens, author of “La Bamba”, in rock music during the 1950s inspired Santana to push his guitar to its limits. During the 1950s his family moved to Tijuana and then to San Francisco, California. Javier Bátiz, a famous guitarist from Tijuana, taught the young Santana the art of the guitar solo.

After learning from Bátiz’s techniques, Santana developed his own style. In 1966, Santana had founded his own band with fellow musicians David Brown and Gregg Rolie. The Santana Blues Band experienced great success throughout the decade for its eclectic blend of rock, soul, salsa, jazz and blues. Like the Who and the Beatles before it, Santana’s band played locally in bars before achieving success. A music festival like no other brought Santana out of the darkness and into the public eye. A notable performance of “Black Magic Woman” (a Fleetwood Mac cover) at Woodstock ‘69 led to a recording contract with Columbia Records later that year.

At this point, the Santana Blues Band was an integrated sextet. Santana (guitar) was the frontman, followed by Gregg Rolie (keyboards and vocals), David Brown (bass), Michael Shrieve (drums), Michael Carabello (percussion), and José “chepito” Areas (percussion). In 1969, Santana released his first album, Santana. The record is most notable for his 11-minute instrumental masterpiece, “Soul Sacrifice”, and the catchy lament, “Evil Ways”. Santana reached #4 on the U.S. album charts, while “Evil Ways” charted #9 on the Billboard 100. 1970 brought the Abraxas album and two historic successes that crystallized the reputation of the band in rock and roll: “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va“. Following in the footsteps of Santana, “Black Magic Woman” reached #4 on the Billboard 100, while “Oye Como Va” charted #13. In 1971, Santana released his final album, Santana III. The album was reinforced by a certain new energy, courtesy of a member of from Derek and the Dominos, Eric Clapton’s band. The album received two hits: “Everybody’s Everything” and “No One to Depend On”. Santana III went double-platinum, and sold two million copies. The songs on the album combined rock and roll with salsa, jazz, blues and Voodoo elements. These rhythms had never been mixed successfully before. The Santana Blues Band broke up in 1972, relegating its founder to the shadows for the next two decades.

The 1990s saw a resurgence in Santana’s popularity. He had recovered from near-obscurity because Columbia Records encouraged him to work with young, up-and-coming singer-songwriters. The result of this collaboration was Supernatural. The album featured a stellar cast of singers, from Rob Thomas to Everlast to Steve Tyler of Aerosmith. Supernatural produced two #1 hits—“Smooth” (with Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20) and “Maria Maria” (with the Product G & B)—and other classics like “Put Your Lights On” (with Everlast). The album sold 15 million copies and went 15-times-Platinum.

Santana saw similar but smaller success in the new millennium. Two duets with Chad Kroeger of Nickelback received significant attention during the last decade, while two compilation albums appealed to Santana’s devoted fanbase.

Over the course of his career, Carlos Santana has sold more than 100 million albums. Because of his achievements, the name Santana is now synonymous with the guitar. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him the fifteenth-greatest guitarist ever in 2003. He has won 10 Grammys and three Latin Grammys—the most prestigious awards in music—over the course of his career. In 1998, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—an even greater testament to his unquestionable ability. Santana is a musical wizard, a time-honored virtuoso who has pushed the limits of music for the past half-century. And for his record of ingenuity, talent, and tenacity, Santana should be revered as a Guitar Legend.

If you want to listen to some more classic Santana, check the playlist below:

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