Legendary Vocalist/Keyboardist for Santana and Journey
Santana‘s 1999 Grammy phenomenon, Supernatural, has sold in excess of 25 million copies. It launched a rebirth of Carlos Santana‘s career leading to his artist-as-icon status. More recently, he has lent his name to a line of Santana perfumes and colognes, handbags, wine, Carlos by Carlos women’s shoes, and more.
But this legendary status now enjoyed by Carlos wouldn’t exist were it not for the hits still played on radio: “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye https://www.ultimatesantana.com/music-video/santana-songs/oye-como-va/Como Va,” et al. Most of these songs were included on Santana’s first two albums, Santana (often called Santana by Santana), and Abraxas.
At the heart of the sound of those classic records are the keyboard playing and vocals of a young musician named Gregg Rolie.
Still a teenager when he and Carlos formed what was at one time titled the “Santana Blues Band” and then finally simply “Santana,” Rolie had a distinctive vocal style has been immortalized on those early albums. And he didn’t stop there. He and band mate Neal Schon went on to form Journey, a band which initially achieved a cult status among musicians, and then became one of the world’s leading pop rock groups.
Rolie wasn’t just a vocalist who accompanied himself on keyboards, though. The powerful simplicity of his organ playing is evident in the iconic chord inversions that introduce Oye Como Va, the unusual note (a 9th) that kicks off his solo in Evil Ways, and many other parts. Playing keyboards is something many people do; really good keyboard players is a much smaller group. Creating keyboard parts (both rhythm and lead) that stick in people’s mind is a rare skill indeed, and one at which Rolie excels.
To this day, Rolie can be heard on both keyboards and vocals in his own group, the Gregg Rolie Band. Touring the country and playing hits both old and new, Rolie and his band (which includes original Santana conguero Mike Carabello) embody much of the original sound of the early Santana songs that still resonate with listeners, 40 years later.