Breaking Down The Barriers

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

Long before world music was comed as a phrase, Carlos Santana was playing it. Ever since his band's performance at the 1969 Woodstock festival gave his music widespread exposure, the world has listened eagerly to his blend of rock, blues and Afro-Cuban rhythms.

After more than three decades and 36 albums, Santana still remains one of popular music's driving forces and greatest innovators. His most recent album, 1999's "Supernatural," has sold more than 10 million copies and won nine Grammy awards, including Song Of The Year for "Smooth," which topped the Billboard singles chart for 12 weeks. "Supernatural" featured a supporting cast, including Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas (Who provided the vocals on "Smooth"), Eric Clapton and Lauryn Hill, again demonstrating Santana's drawing power as an artist.

For all his present-day fame, Santana's beginnings are somewhat more humble. Born in the Mexican village of Autlan, he was first introduced to traditional Mexican music by his father, Jose, a mariachi violinist.

In 1955, the family moved to Tijuana, where he began to hear rock ‘n' roll bands on the radio and realized this was where his true interest lay He began playing guitar with local bands, performing cover versions of popular songs while developing his own distinctive guitar style.

In the early 1960s, the Santana family relocated again, this time Carlos found himself in the middle of the thriving Bay Area music scene. In 1966, he formed the Santana Blues Band; its unique, genre-bending style gained it a strong local following, which eventually led to a performance at Woodstock

The rest, as they say, is history. The band's 1969 debut album "Santana" achieved double-platinum status and produced the hit single "Evil Ways". The 1970 follow-up "Abraxas," which numbers among its tracks the Santana classics "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va", went quadruple-platinum. The Santana Blues Band was the first to earn CBS Records' Crystal Globe Award for sales of more than five million albums worldwide.

Santana's passion for music extends far beyond recording albums. He has scored film soundtracks, toured the world countless times and even took part in the first-ever joint U.S.-Soviet rock concert, 1987's Rock 'n' Roll Summit. He has contributed to charitable causes, including San Francisco Earthquake Relief and Education for Latin Youth and has received civic and humanitarian awards.

Millions around the world enjoy Santana's music, and he is gaining new fans every day. His work continues to break down musical and cultural barriers and is as vibrant and relevant today as it ever was.

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, October 2, 2002

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