Santana’s legacy: More than 40 years of great music

Guest post: Christine Fasick

The name Carlos Santana is synonymous with a unique genre of music that features Latin and African percussion instruments married with the smooth and melodic tone of the blues guitar. Although Santana’s sound has evolved over the past four decades, his style remains a constant, his passion for the music apparent in every note he hits and sustains. From the raw, improvised riffs of the band’s first album, featuring songs such as Evil Ways and Soul Sacrifice, to the more polished sound of their later works, the guitar legend’s keen sense of timing and classic Latin twist are ever present.

Santana Tribute guitarist and keyboardist

The son of a mariachi musician, Carlos Santana was born in Jalisco, Mexico in 1947. He first learned to play the guitar at the age of 8. Although he retained a feel for and love of the Latin music with which he was raised, Santana was heavily influenced by Latin pop star Ritchie Valens and blues greats B.B. King and Muddy Waters. But his musical style truly began to take shape when his family moved to San Francisco at the height of the hippie movement, and a young Carlos was exposed to a number of new musical influences, including those of jazz and folk. The resulting syncretic sound made the band widely popular on the San Francisco club circuit, and earned them an eventual spot at Woodstock.

The guitar heard round the world

Named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the twenty best guitarists in the world, Santana continues to evolve and explore new avenues in music. In the late 1990’s, at the age of 52, he collaborated with a host of popular artists, including Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas, Wyclef Jean, and Dave Matthews, to write and record Supernatural. The album, which was produced by the legendary Clive Davis, won an unprecedented 8 Grammy awards, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year (Smooth), and sold 30 million copies worldwide. More importantly, it introduced Santana’s trademark guitar sound to a whole new generation.

Carlos in the new millennium

Having gained musical immortality with classic Santana songs, such as the energetic Black Magic Woman and Oye Como Va, and haunting ballads like Europa and Samba Pa Ti, Carlos Santana has turned his creative attentions toward other pursuits. He has lent his name and signature style to a number of products, including an exclusive line of women’s shoes, several specially designed Paul Reed Smith guitar models, headwear, sparkling wines, and colognes, among others. Perhaps closest to his heart are his humanitarian pursuits. The Milagro Foundation, which he founded along with former wife Deborah, works to improve the lives and opportunities of young people all over the world.

Santana’s storied career and contribution to the arts led to his selection as a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2013. But it is doubtful that the iconic guitarist will sit back and rest on his laurels. With an unparalleled musical ability and the eye of a true artist, there is very little that Carlos Santana cannot accomplish. The world looks forward to seeing what he will do next.