Carlos Santana was born in Jalisco, Mexico at a time when only a very small handful of Latinos were prominent in American popular music. Even so, he picked up playing the violin at five years old and found his true passion in playing the guitar at age eight. Some of his biggest influences were B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, and Mexican-American Ritchie Valens. Santana moved with his family from Mexico to San Francisco before finishing middle school, and he spent his high school years attending and playing live concerts. By the time Carlos Santana had formed the band with his namesake, he was a well-known presence in the San Francisco music scene.
Following the legendary Woodstock performance, Santana signed a recording contract with Clive Davis’s Columbia Records. Although this early era featured a revolving door of backing musicians under the Santana name, Carlos was an unstoppable creative force. The song “Evil Ways” became a huge radio hit, and Santana went on to produce several additional albums and successful concert tours over the next decade. Santana has always flourished as a collaborator, and his talents have been featured on recordings with Herbie Hancock, Willie Nelson, John Lee Hooker, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Angélique Kidjo, and Michael Jackson, to name a few. Perhaps the biggest hit album of his career, 1999’s Supernatural, came from this same collaborative spirit. The album features Everlast, Eric Clapton, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, Dave Matthews, and, of course, Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas on the wildly popular single, “Smooth.” Supernatural won Santana eight of his ten career Grammy Awards.
Carlos Santana is widely respected for his musicianship – artists like Prince and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett (and many others) consider him to be a major influence. Rolling Stone has named him as one of the fifteen best guitarists of all time. Outside of the limelight, Santana is also revered for his generosity and humanitarian spirit. He appeared at the famed 1985 Live Aid concert and has since performed in support of numerous disaster relief and charity events. One of Santana’s most beloved projects is the Milagro (“Miracle”) Foundation, a non-profit organization that he founded to provide medical and educational support to people in need in various parts of the world. Santana also inspired the foundation of the global peace network Architects of a New Dawn and continues to collaborate with other visionary leaders like Herbie Hancock and Don Miguel Ruiz, promoting peace and the conscious evolution of mankind.
Through his ever-expanding catalog of music and his heroic humanitarian efforts, Carlos Santana continues to strive to break down the barriers that divide people. His belief in music as a universal language coupled with the talent and ingenuity to blend it into so many forms has made his an iconic voice in both American and global pop culture.