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Musicians in crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has left no one person untouched in the U.S. Working from home, social distancing, having groceries delivered, wearing masks in public and a social life limited to zoom calls with your family and friends are all novel things that have suddenly become part of the everyday fabric of life. 

All of us have had to learn to cope with the reality of a potentially deadly virus ripping through the population, and the sacrifices that we need to make to limit the damage. But those who make their living off of live entertainment are being hit especially hard by the complete disruption of life as we know it. 

Coronavirus fall-out in the music industry

With public gatherings being shut down all over the world, musical appearances at weddings, concert tours, live shows and festivals have all been cancelled until further notice. The great majority of people employed in the music industry work on a freelance basis. From performers to stage hands to those who work behind the scenes in sales and marketing, there is no safety net. Unless the show goes on, nobody is getting paid. 

And this pandemic is happening at a time where we’re already seeing a steep decline in the recording industry, because the way people obtain and listen to music has changed. It wasn’t that long ago that a consumer had to buy a physical product in the form of a record, tape or CD, in order to gain possession of music from their favorite band. This type of transaction made it easier to tie the profits from the sale of music directly to the artist and recording studio from which it had been produced.

Fast forward to the 21st century and consumers are getting their music in single units from apps and streaming services. As a result, profits are progressively shifting away from record labels and recording artists, and a pandemic-induced, global economic downturn does not help. 

How musicians can adapt

If you’re a “gig musician” and have lost your regular job performing at live events, you’ll need to figure out new ways to incentivize yourself to play, build a fanbase and even replace some of the lost income. Think about releasing recordings or live-streaming on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitch or YouTube. Come up with ways to stay accountable and engage your fans, like announce a challenge: “seven songs for seven days of quarantine”. Just knowing they’re waiting to hear what you’ve put together might give you the push you need to start/keep writing.

Online performances are a good way to raise your profile on social media and help build a following as people share your music with others. You can also set up a payment method, such as Venmo, Zelle or PayPal, through which people can donate if they like what they hear. Even small amounts will add up. It takes creativity, but if you persevere, you can emerge from the lockdown with a bigger fanbase and perhaps even a new catalog of work. 

The healing benefits of music

We are living in a very stressful time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re bombarded from every direction with instructions on how to take care of our physical health so that we can avoid contracting the virus. But during this most challenging of times we must take care of our mental health, too.

As a result of all the recommendations for social distancing and, as more and more states issue shelter-in-place orders to residents, people are becoming physically isolated and dwelling on the uncertainties of the future: Will I contract the virus? Are my loved ones safe? What about my job; can I pay my bills? When will the pandemic end?

There is a heightened level of anxiety among the general population, but even more so for people who already suffer from anxiety, OCD, and other mental health issues.  

Many people feel a real sense of helplessness and even hopelessness as they sit at home, day after day, watching the news and thinking about the impacts that the virus has had and will have on themselves and their loved ones.

But there are things that you can do to help deal with your anxiety and fears, and listening to and/or making music is one of them. Music can help to reduce your stress and anxiety, can help to distract you from negative thoughts and feelings and can even help to relieve symptoms of physical and mental health conditions.

Music has been used to decrease physical as well as emotional pain while increasing the quality of life in both medical and psychiatric hospitals, drug and alcohol rehab programs, cancer centers, and nursing care facilities as well as assisted living facilities.  

Music can help to calm your fears and decrease your level of stress and anxiety. Choose music that is calming or distracting for you, and, if and when you feel yourself becoming depressed, anxious, or fearful, simply put on your headphones, turn on the music, close your eyes, and breathe to the music. 

Put together a playlist of songs with positive associations that you can listen to when you need a quick boost. Songs are often associated with good memories from your past, and can transport you back to a happier time.

Music can lift your mood, something that is so needed in this time of crisis. Whether it’s turning the volume up to 10 on your favorite song, singing or playing along to it, or even getting up and dancing around your living room, music can help clear your head of negative thoughts and provide a fun distraction from the depressing or worrisome news of the day.

People across the globe have been creative in using music to battle their social isolation and to boost morale. Videos of Italians singing and playing music from their balconies have gone viral. Musicians are streaming live music via social media. Sharing music has become a way of connecting people during the COVID-19 pandemic in a responsible way. 

So get busy and enjoy your favorite tunes. Or, compose your own music, dance to your favorite ballet, put on a musical with your kids, or lose yourself in your favorite piece of classical music as it’s being streamed online by some of the world’s greatest orchestras. 

The Launch of a Band

As a teenager during the late 1950’s, Carlos Santana was playing with a variety of bands in clubs and bars along the Tijuana Strip where he was not only exposed to the local music, popular in northern Mexico, but also to the blues and blues guitarists like B.B. King and T-Bone Walker.

In 1961, Santana moved to San Francisco to join his family who had moved the previous year.  Working for a time as a dishwasher and playing for change on the street, Santana continued to pursue his music, becoming more attracted to and influenced by the Bay Area’s growing rock scene.

A chance meeting between the guitarist and keyboardist, Gregg Rolie, and bass player, David Brown, led to the formation of the Santana Blues Band in 1966. The band began to attract a following among the local San Francisco club scene, combining rock, jazz, blues, and Afro-Cuban rhythms with a Latin sound.

In the late ‘60s San Francisco venues such as The Fillmore Ballroom and Winterland were showcasing such acts as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and Jimi Hendrix Experience. Legendary rock promoter, Bill Graham, provided these venues for performers so that they could experiment and improvise with their music, where they could play long sets, and where their fans could listen and dance to this new wave of music.

Graham took an interest in Carlos Santana and the group which made its debut performance as an opening act at the Fillmore in 1968. The reaction by fans to the group’s music was so positive that Graham soon became their manager. Sensing that the band’s sound was unique and that they had the potential to break into the music scene, Graham was able to secure a slot for them to perform at the Woodstock Music Festival in August of 1969.

By this time, the band had experienced several changes in personnel, and in 1969, it consisted of Carlos Santana on lead guitar, Gregg Rolie on organ and keyboards, David Brown on bass, Michael Shrieve on drums and Michael Carabello and Jose Areas, both playing congas and percussion. In May of that year, the group had gone into the studio to record some of their music for a possible album to be released at a later date. 

Bill Graham really believed that performing in Woodstock would be a watershed moment for the group, now going by the name of Santana, and that they could become as big as some of the biggest names in rock, such as The Doors and Hendrix.  However, the group was skeptical, having played mostly West Coast performances to local fans.

When Santana took to the stage at Woodstock in the early afternoon of August 16th, most of the festival goers had never heard of them. But, by the end of their 45 minute set consisting of 8 songs and ending with “Soul Sacrifice” and the famous drum solo of Michael Shrieve, the “Santana sound” had left a lasting impression on the crowd that day.

And, just as Bill Graham has predicted, Santana shot up to the top of the popular music charts, within a few weeks of Woodstock and after their debut album, Santana, was released on August 30, 1969, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, remaining there for two years.

Santana at Woodstock

Before Woodstock, Santana was a relatively unknown band that hailed from San Francisco’s Mission District. Carlos Santana put together the band with keyboardist and singer, Gregg Rolie, in 1966. Playing mostly local gigs, the band was discovered by legendary promotor, Bill Graham, who booked Santana into the Fillmore West on June 16 1968.

By 1969, the band consisted of Carlos Santana on lead guitar, Gregg Rolie on organ and keyboards, David Brown on bass, Michael Shrieve on drums, and Michael Carabello and Jose Arias, both playing congas and percussion.

Graham recognized that Santana had a sound that was unique — a mixture of blues guitar set against a backdrop of Latin and African rhythms which featured percussion instruments like the timbales and congas, sounds not heard in rock music at the time.

It was this unique sound that attracted Bill Graham to the band, and he soon became their manager. At the time, Graham was also managing some big name groups such as The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. So, when the Woodstock promoters came to him for help putting together the event, he agreed….with one stipulation. They had to agree to Santana performing at the festival, which they did, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

With no track record of performing at big venues and having just finished up recording music earlier in May of ‘69 for a possible album to be released at a later date, the group was skeptical about performing. Carlos Santana remembers his reaction to the news that they’d be on the bill at Woodstock with some of the biggest names in rock, “Bill, we’re from the Mission. We don’t buy into that rock star thing.” But, Graham predicted that performing at Woodstock would be a game changer for the band, putting them on a par with the likes of Hendrix and the Doors.

Santana was scheduled to play around midnight on the second day of Woodstock, August 16th, 1969. It had started to rain the night before, and by the afternoon of the 16th, the venue had turned into a sea of mud, creating all sorts of technical problems and wreaking havoc on the schedule of performers for that day. Arriving at around 11 that morning, the group was told they weren’t going to take the stage until well after midnight.

Carlos Santana decided to take some mescaline that he got from Jerry Garcia, figuring that he’d be okay to perform after midnight. At two in the afternoon, he was told that it was time for the band to perform — a now or never situation. When the band took the stage that afternoon, Santana was really hallucinating and, as he tells it, was wrestling with his guitar which had “transformed” into a slithering snake he was trying to hold onto while playing.

And play he did. Performing a 45-minute set of eight songs culminating with “Soul Sacrifice” and Michael Shrieve’s famous drum solo, the group was the big hit of Woodstock, raising the consciousness level as well as the energy level of the crowd who were dancing and moving to something that wasn’t really rock and roll, but a sound that was powerful, rhythmic, and simply magical.

Just as Bill Graham had predicted, Santana’s performance at Woodstock propelled them to the top of popular music charts. Within a few weeks of Woodstock, the group released their debut album, Santana, on August 30th. It quickly rose to No. 4 on Billboards’s 200 albums chart and stayed there for two years, with “Evil Ways” rising to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Santana Tribute band: What does it take?

Guest post from Lisa Hartman

The primal beat of African drums, the sensuality and passion of the Latin sound, the coolness of the blues combined with the intensity of rock. Fuse them together and what to do you get? The music of Santana. For more than 40 years, Santana’s music has captured the world stage, transcending musical genres with its constantly evolving sound which appeals to music lovers from all walks of life. Santana burst onto the music scene in the late 60’s in an era that has defined music for several generations of rock and rollers, and is still as relevant today as it was then.

Savor: Tribute to Santana in concert in Buena Park

What does it take to put together a great Santana tribute band? Start with a fiery percussion section — congas, bongos, timbales. Add the energized beat of the drummer, a rhythm and blues keyboardist who can easily shift from playing blues riffs to jazz and funk, and the pounding of the bassist in the groove. Top this off with a guitarist who can not only recreate the raw, unpolished sounds of the earlier Santana albums, but also the smoother, more sophisticated sounds that dominated later recordings. Put all of this together and you have the makings of a great Santana tribute band, and that band’s name is Savor!

If you close your eyes, you think it’s Santana

Savor recreates all the hits spanning rock legend Carlos Santana’s 40 year long career. Their set list is a veritable trip “down memory lane” with the raw and passionate sounds of Soul Sacrifice, Jingo, and Evil Ways — part of Santana’s legendary set at Woodstock — to the more mystical sounds of Incident at Neshabur and Black Magic Woman to the electrifying, Latin sounds of Maria, Maria, Smooth, and Oye Como Va. When you close your eyes and listen to Savor, you’ll swear you’re listening to your favorite Santana album! With decades of musical experience between them, the musicians of Savor put on an exhilarating, crowd-pleasing performance every time complete with 60’s and Afro-Cuban clothing to round out your “Santana” experience.

Watch the video

Check out the band’s video to get a sample of their dynamite show. While you’re there, take a look at the set list for Savor’s shows and read about the musicians that make up this awesome Santana tribute band. Pay tribute to rock legend Carlos Santana and come rock with Savor!