Childhood & Early Life
Carlos Augusto Alves Santana was born in Autlan de Navarro, in Mexico. He and his younger brother, Jorge Santana, were heavily influenced by music from a very young age.
At the age of five, he learnt how to play the violin, followed by the guitar. He was greatly inspired by the works of musicians including Ritchie Valens.
He studied at James Lick Middle School and Mission High School. He was also accepted in California State University, Humboldt State University and Northridge, but he turned down their offers.
In the 60s, he was greatly influenced by the music of B.B King and was introduced to a variety of music styles. He also witnessed the proliferation of the hippie movement that was a central movement in San Francisco at the time.
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He started off as a musician with a number of accidental breaks. There was an incident in 1966, when he was assembled in an impromptu band replacing Paul Butterfield’s band. During these accidental sessions, his guitar playing abilities were noticed by a wide audience and also his peers.
The ‘Santana Blues Band’ was formed in 1966 with other musicians, including Gregg Rolie and David Brown. After their original blend of Latin-infused rock, African rhythms and jazz, they gained an immediate fan following in San Francisco after a foot-tapping performance at Woodstock in 1969. The band immediately changed their name to ‘Santana’.
This immediate success led him to sign a contract with CBS Records. Santana then went onto record their debut album. A self-titled album, it was released in 1969, the release for which was already given a head start with their unforgettable performance at the Woodstock Festival. This album and their performance at the festival, catapulted them to international acclaim.
The band released ‘Abraxas’, their second album, the following year. This was followed with ‘Santana III’, the band’s second self-titled album in September, 1971. The album was also sometimes referred to as ‘Man with an Outstretched Hand’.
Tensions within the band propelled due to which he started to resent a number of members in his band. He then decided to get together with a few of his old band-mates and recorded ‘Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles Live, which released in 1972. The same year the band ‘Santana’ released their fourth album, ‘Caravanserai’.
He was a huge fan of the fusion group, ‘The Mahavishnu Orchestra’. He was soon introduced to the guru of one of the guitarists of the fusion group - Sri Chinmoy. Santana was given the name ‘Devadip’ and he went on to record the album, ‘Love, Devotion, Surrender’ with the guitarist, in 1973.
He further experimented with jazz fusion with ‘Santana’s fifth studio album, ‘Welcome’, released in 1973. This was followed by another album, ‘Lotus’, which released the following year.
From 1974 to 1978, he was a part of the albums, ‘Illuminations’, ‘Borboletta’, ‘Amigos’, ‘Moonflower’ and ‘Inner Secrets’.
He started on a solo career in 1979, funded by CBS. He released, ‘Oneness: Silver Dreams-Golden Reality’ and then ‘The Swing of Delight’ the following year. It was during this time, he was under tremendous pressure to balance his rock music life along with the spiritual life by his guru, Sri Chinmoy.
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Through the 80s he was a part of a number of singles and also released a few albums including ‘Shango’, ‘Beyond Appearances’ and ‘Freedom’. He also provided the soundtrack for the 1987 American film, ‘La Bamba’, based on the life of his icon, Ritchie Valens.
In 1988, he organized a reunion with his former band-mates and CBS records to compile the band’s accomplishments in an album titled, ‘Viva Santana!’ The same year, he formed an all-instrumental group.
In 1990, he left Columbia Records after twenty-two years and signed on a new record deal with Polygram. In the beginning of the 90s, his record sales were very low. He released another album with a number of international artists titled, ‘Supernatural’ in 1999, which brought him back into the limelight.
From 2002 to 2005, he released ‘Shaman’ and also contributed to albums by other artists like ‘Possibilities’, ‘Oral Fixation Vol. 2’ and finally his own album, ‘All That I Am’, that primarily consisted of his collaborations with other musicians. Through the next year, he toured Europe with a number of musicians.
At the end of 2008, he was working on his solo album, ‘Acoustic Demos’, which released at the end of the year and also performed for the American Idol finale, which aired the next year.
In 2009, he performed live at the Athens Olympic Stadium with his 10-member band as a part of his ‘Supernatural Santana - A Trip through the Hits’ tour.
In 2012, he released the album, ‘Shape Shifter’, which was the 22nd album by Santana, by a new record label, Starfaith Records.
His 1969 album, ‘Santana’, which was also his debut studio album, was destined to have one of the biggest releases for a newcomer, due to the band’s pivotal performance at The Woodstock Festival. The songs, mainly instrumental, went on to have a huge impact on fans and charted at the number 4 position of the U.S. Top 10 and the Billboard 200. Rolling Stone magazine also listed the album as one of the ‘500 Greatest Albums of all Time’.
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‘Santana III’, released in 1971, experimented more with jazz influences and the album featured two hit singles; ‘No one to Depend on’ and ‘Everybody’s Everything’. It charted the no. 1 position on the Billboard 200.
‘Supernatural’, the 17th album released by ‘Santana’ in 1999, went on to win 9 Grammy Awards including ‘Album of the Year’. It also went on to win three important Latin Grammy Awards. The album hit the no.1 spot in 10 countries around the world and stayed on the Billboard 200 countdown for over 18 weeks. The album has been certified Platinum countless times and has also been given the certification of Diamond.
Awards & Achievements
He won the CBS Crystal Globe Award for ‘First Band with over 5 million record sales worldwide’, in 1977.
In 1996, he won the Billboard Century Award.
He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was presented to him, in 1997.
In 1999, he was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
He won the American Music Awards for the category of ‘Favorite Pop/Rock Album’ for ‘Supernatural’, in 2000.
He has been mentioned in the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ for ‘Most Grammy Awards in a single year’ and three other times.