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Carlos Augusto Alves Santana (born July 20, 1947) is a Mexican-Nicaraguan born American Grammy Award-winning rock musician and guitarist. Santana became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band, Santana, which pioneered a blend of rock, salsa and jazz fusion. The band's sound featured his melodic, blues-based guitar lines set against Latin percussion such as timbales and congas. Santana continued to work in these forms over the following decades. He experienced a sudden resurgence of popularity and critical acclaim in the late 1990s. Rolling Stone also named Santana number 15 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time in 2003.


Early life

Santana was born in Autlán de Navarromarker, Jaliscomarker, Mexicomarker. His father was a mariachi violinist, and Carlos learned to play the violin at age five and the guitar at age eight. Young Carlos was heavily influenced by Ritchie Valens at a time when there were very few Latinos in American rock and pop music. The family moved from Autlán de Navarro to Tijuanamarker, the border city between Mexico and Californiamarker, and then San Franciscomarker. Carlos stayed in Tijuana but joined his family in San Francisco later and graduated from James Lick Middle School and Mission High Schoolmarker there. He graduated from Mission High in 1965.

In San Francisco, the young guitarist got the chance to see his idols, most notably B.B. King, perform live. He was also introduced to a variety of new musical influences, including jazz, world music, and folk music, and witnessed the growing hippie movement centered in San Francisco in the 1960s. After several years spent working as a dishwasher in a diner and busking for spare change on the streets, Santana decided to become a full-time musician; in 1966, he formed the Santana Blues Band, with fellow street musicians David Brown and Gregg Rolie (bassist and keyboard player, respectively).

With their highly original blend of Latin-infused rock, jazz, blues, salsa, and African rhythms, the band (which quickly became known simply as Santana) gained an immediate following on the San Francisco strip club. The band's early success, capped off by a memorable performance at Woodstock in 1969, led to a recording contract with Columbia Records, then run by Clive Davis.

Spiritual journey

In 1972, Santana became a huge fan of the pioneering fusion band The Mahavishnu Orchestra and its guitarist John McLaughlin. Aware of Santana's interest in meditation, McLaughlin introduced Santana and Deborah to his guru, Sri Chinmoy. Chinmoy accepted them as disciples in 1973. Santana was given the name "Devadip" - meaning "The lamp, light and eye of God." Santana and McLaughlin recorded an album together, Love, Devotion, Surrender with members of Santana and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, along with percussionist Don Alias and organist Larry Young, who both had made appearances on Miles Davis' classic Bitches Brew in 1969.

In 1973, Santana, having obtained legal rights to the band's name, formed a new version of Santana, with Armando Peraza and Chepito Areas on percussion, Doug Rauch on bass, Michael Shrieve on drums, and Tom Coster and Richard Kermode on keyboards. Santana was later able to recruit jazz vocalist Leon Thomas for a tour of Japan, which was recorded for the live, sprawling, high-energy fusion album Lotus. CBS records would not allow its release unless the material was condensed. Santana did not agree to those terms, and the album was available in the U.S. only as an expensive, imported, three-record set. The group later went into the studio and recorded Welcome, which further reflected Santana's interests in jazz fusion and his commitment to the spiritual life of Sri Chinmoy.

Santana claimed to become a born-again Christian (date unknown) and produced an album in 1992 —with songs about Jesus Christ, called Milagro.

In 2008 he told Rolling Stone magazine in an interview that he would hear Jesus' voice comforting him when he was becoming suicidal.

Shifting styles in the 1970s

A collaboration with John Coltrane's widow, Alice Coltrane -Illuminations followed. The album delved into avant-garde esoteric free jazz, Eastern Indian and classical influences with other ex-Miles Davis sidemen Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland. Soon after, Santana replaced his band members again. This time Kermode, Thomas and Rauch departed from the group and were replaced by vocalist Leon Patillo (later a successful Contemporary Christian artist) and returning bassist David Brown. He also recruited soprano saxophonist, Jules Broussard to the lineup. The band recorded one studio album Borboletta, which was released in 1974. Drummer Leon 'Ndugu' Chancler later joined the band as a replacement for Michael Shrieve, who left to pursue a solo career. For a time, he employed the services of famed Jaco Pastorius on bass guitar who added more of a funk groove to his newer jazz sound.

By this time, the Bill Graham's management company had assumed the affairs of the group. Graham was critical of Santana's direction into jazz and felt he needed to concentrate on getting Santana back into the charts with the edgy, street-wise ethnic sound that had made them famous. Santana himself was seeing that the group's direction was alienating many fans. Although the albums and performances were given good reviews by critics in jazz and jazz fusion circles, sales had plummeted.

Santana along with Tom Coster, producer David Rubinson, and Chandler formed yet another version of Santana, adding vocalist Greg Walker. The 1976 album Amigos, which featured the songs "Dance, Sister, Dance" and "Let It Shine", had a strong funk and Latin sound. The album also received considerable airplay on FM album-oriented rock stations with the instrumental "Europa " and re-introduced Santana back into the charts. Rolling Stone Magazine ran a second cover story on Santana entitled "Santana Comes Home".

The albums conceived through the late 1970s followed the same formula, although with several lineup changes. Among the personnel who came and left the band was percussionist Raul Rekow, who joined in early 1977 and remains to this day. Most-notable of the band's commercial efforts of this era was a version of the 1960s Zombies hit, "She's Not There", on the 1977 album Moonflower.

The relative success of the band's albums in this era allowed Santana to pursue a solo career funded by CBS. First, Oneness, Silver Dreams, Golden Reality in 1979 and The Swing of Delight in 1980, which featured some of his musical heroes: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams from Miles Davis' legendary 1960s quintet.

The pressures and temptations of being a high-profile rock musician and requisites of the spiritual lifestyle which guru Sri Chinmoy and his followers demanded, were great sources of conflict to Santana's lifestyle and marriage. He was becoming increasingly disillusioned with what he thought was Chinmoy's often-unreasonable rules imposed on his life, in particular, his refusal to allow Santana and Deborah to start a family. He felt too that his fame was being used to increase the guru's visibility. Santana and Deborah eventually ended their relationship with Chinmoy in 1982.

The 1980s

More radio-pleasing singles followed from Santana and the band. "Winning" in 1981 and "Hold On" ( a remake of Canadian artist Ian Thomas' song) in 1982 both reached the top twenty. After his break with Sri Chinmoy, Santana went into the studio to record another solo album with Keith Olson and legendary R&B producer Jerry Wexler. The 1983 album revisited Santana's early musical experiences in Tijuana with Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love" and the title cut, Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon". The album's guests included Booker T. Jones, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Willie Nelson and even Santana's father's mariachi orchestra. Santana again paid tribute to his early rock roots by doing the film score to La Bamba, which was based on the tragically short life of rock and roll legend Ritchie Valens and starred Lou Diamond Philips.

Although the band had concentrated on trying to produce albums with commercial appeal during the 1980s, changing tastes in popular culture began to reflect in the band's sagging record sales of their latest effort Beyond Appearances. In 1985, Bill Graham had to once again pull strings for Santana to convince principal Live Aid concert organizer Bob Geldof to allow the band to appear at the festival. The group's high-energy performance proved why they were still a top concert draw the world over despite their poor performance on the charts. Personally, Santana retained a great deal of respect in both jazz and rock circles, with Prince and guitarist Kirk Hammett of Metallica citing him as an influence.

The band Santana returned in 1986 with a new album Freedom. Buddy Milles, who was trying to revive his music career after spending much of the late 1970s and early 1980s incarcerated for drug charges, returned for lead vocals. His onstage presence provided a dose of charisma to the show; but, once again, the sales of the album fell flat.

Growing weary of trying to appease record company executives with formulaic hit records, Santana took great pleasure in jamming and making guest appearances with notables such as the jazz fusion group Weather Report, jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, Blues legend John Lee Hooker, Frank Franklin, Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, and West African singer Salif Keita. He and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead later recorded and performed with Nigerianmarker drummer Babatunde Olatunji, who conceived one of Santana's famous 1960s drum jams, "Jingo". In 1988, Santana organized a reunion with past members from the Santana band for a series of concert dates. CBS records released a 20-year retrospective of the band's accomplishments with Viva Santana.

That same year Santana formed an all-instrumental group featuring jazz legend Wayne Shorter on tenor and soprano sax. The group also included Patrice Rushen on keyboards, Alphonso Johnson on bass, Armando Peraza and Chepito Areas on percussion, and Leon 'Ndugu' Chanckler on drums. They toured briefly and received much acclaim from the music press, who compared the effort with the era of Caravanserai. Santana released another solo record, Blues for Slavador, which won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

In 1990, Santana left Columbia Records after twenty-two years and signed with Polygram. The following year, he made a guest appearance on Ottmar Liebert's album Solo Para Ti, on the songs "Reaching out 2 U" and on a cover of his own song, "Samba Pi Ti". In 1992, Santana hired jam band Phish as his opening act. He remains close to the band today, especially to guitarist Trey Anastasio.

Return to commercial success

Carlos Santana during a concert in 2005

Santana's record sales in the 1990s were very low. Toward the end of the decade he was without a contract. However, Arista Records' Clive Davis, who had worked with Santana at Columbia Records, signed him and encouraged him to record a star-studded album with mostly younger artists. The result was 1999's Supernatural, which included collaborations with Everlast, Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty, Eric Clapton, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, Cee-Lo, Maná, Dave Matthews, K. C. Porter, J. B. Eckl, and others.

However, the lead single was what grabbed the attention of both fans and the music industry. "Smooth", a dynamic cha-cha stop-start number co-written and sung by Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty, was laced throughout with Santana's guitar fills and runs. The track's energy was immediately apparent on radio, and it was played on a wide variety of station formats. "Smooth" spent twelve weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming in the process the last #1 single of the 1990s. The music video, set on a hot barrio street, was also very popular. Supernatural reached number one on the US album charts and the follow-up single, "Maria Maria", featuring the R&B duo The Product G&B, also hit number one, spending ten weeks there in the spring of 2000. Supernatural eventually sold over 15 million copies in the United States, making it Santana's biggest sales success by far.

In 2000 Supernatural won nine Grammy Awards (eight for Santana personally), including Album of the Year, Record of the Year for "Smooth", and Song of the Year for Thomas and Itaal Shur. Santana's acceptance speeches described his feelings about music's place in one's spiritual existence. Later that year at the Latin Grammy Awards he won three awards including Record of the Year. In 2001, Santana's guitar skills were featured in Michael Jackson's song "Whatever Happens", from the album Invincible.

In 2002, Santana released Shaman, revisiting the Supernatural format of guest artists including P.O.D. and Seal. Although the album was not the runaway success its predecessor had been, it produced two radio-friendly hits. "The Game of Love" featuring Michelle Branch, rose to number five on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent many weeks at the top of the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and "Why Don't You & I" written by and featuring Chad Kroeger from the group Nickelback (the original and a remix with Alex Band from the group The Calling were combined towards chart performance) which reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100. "The Game of Love" went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

In August 2003, Santana was named fifteenth on Rolling Stone magazine's "List of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".

In 2005, Herbie Hancock approached Santana to collaborate on an album again using the Supernatural formula. Possibilities was released on August 30, 2005, featuring Carlos Santana and Angélique Kidjo on "Safiatou". Also, in 2005, the fellow Latin star Shakira invited Santana to play soft rock guitar ballad Illegal on her second English-language studio album Oral Fixation Vol. 2.

Santana's 2005 album All That I Am consisting primarily of collaborations with other artists; the first single, the peppy "I'm Feeling You", was again with Michelle Branch and The Wreckers. Other musicians joining the mix this time included Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Kirk Hammett from Metallica, hip-hop/reggae star Sean Paul and R&B singer Joss Stone. In April and May 2006, Santana toured Europe, where he promoted his son Salvador Santana's band as his opening act.

In 2007, Santana appeared, along with Sheila E. and José Feliciano, on Gloria Estefan's album 90 Millas, on the single "No Llores". He also teamed again with Chad Kroeger for the hit single "Into the Night."

On October 19, 2007, his wife of 34 years, Deborah, filed for divorce citing "irreconcilable differences".

In 2008, Santana started working with his long-time friend, Marcelo Vieira, on his solo album Marcelo Vieira's Acoustic Sounds, which is due to be released at the end of the year. It features tracks such as "For Flavia" and "Across the Grave", the later featuring heavy melodic riffs by Santana.

Carlos Santana performed at the 2009 American Idol Finale with the top 13 finalists, which starred many acts such as KISS, Queen and Rod Stewart. On July 8 2009, Carlos Santana appeared at the Athens Olympic Stadiummarker in Athens with his 10-member all-star band as part of his "Supernatural Santana - A Trip through the Hits" European tour. On July 10 2009, he also appeared at Philip II Stadium in Skopjemarker, Macedonia. With 2.5 hours concert and 20 000 people, Santana appeared for the first time in that region. "Supernatural Santana - A Trip through the Hits" is currently playing at The Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas, where it will play through the end 2009.

Santana is featured as a playable character in the music video game Guitar Hero 5. A live recording of his song "No One To Depend On" is included in game, which was released on September 1.

Carlos has recently opened a chain of upscale Mexican restaurants called "Maria Maria". It is a combined effort with renowned Chef Roberto Santibanez. They are located in Tempe AZ, Mill Valley & Walnut Creek CA, and Austin TX, and soon to Boca Raton FL.


Around the age of 8, Santana "fell under the influence" of blues performers like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker.[22899] He also credits Jimi Hendrix as an important influence.[22900].



Santana performing in 2000

In the mid 1970's, Carlos Santana endorsed a lot of musical equipment, including the Gibson L-6S, and Mesa Boogie amplifiers. He was featured in several Gibson advertisements throughout the decade. Santana played a red Gibson SG Special with P-90 pickups at the Woodstock festival. Then he switched between the P90 SG and a regular Humbucker SG until 1972 when he usually played a standard or a custom maple top Les Paul. From 1976 until 1982 his main guitar was a Yamaha SG 175B and sometimes a white Gibson SG Custom with 3 open coil pick-ups. In 1982 he started to use a custom made PRS guitar, which became his main instrument around 1988. On "Supernatural" he used a custom made PRS guitar for the majority of the tracks.

Santana currently endorses PRS Guitars, and is in fact one of Paul Reed Smith's first customers. He uses a Santana II model guitar using PRS Santana III pickups with nickel covers and a tremolo, with .009-.042 gauge D'Addario strings. His Signature Series models vary greatly from this in some cases, such as the Santana SE and Santana III guitars (which have ceased production). The Santana III has covered pickups instead, and no abalone stringers between the pickups (a feature unique to his official guitar). The Santana SE guitar has 22 frets, tremolo, a basic sunburst top, and a pickguard.

Santana's guitar necks and fretboards are constructed out of a single solid piece of Brazilian Rosewood, instead of the more traditional mahogany neck/Indian rosewood fretboard combination found in stock Santana models and other PRS guitars. The Brazilian Rosewood helps create the smooth, singing, glass-like tone that he is famous for.

Carlos Santana also uses a classical guitar, the Alvarez Yairi CY127CE with Alvarez tension nylon strings.

In January 2008, Carlos Santana unveiled the new Signature Model PRS Santana MD. Santana introduced the very latest PRS signature model, the Santana MD, and its "multi-dimensional" Voice Control. Also shared was Santana's appreciation of Paul Smith's "vision of sound." The Santana MD has all the latest Santana model updates - pickups, knob placement, inlays, tuners and a Mastering Voice Control for early '60s single coil sounds that don't hum. With this model Carlos returns to the basics in his sound like the Woodstock rock festival back in 1969, but with the new technology provided by PRS Guitars.In keeping with the "best of all possible worlds" theme, the PRS Santana MD guitar includes classic features from previous Santana guitars, like the traditional "Santana wide fat" neck shape, Rosewood fretboard, and Mahogany body with carved flame Maple top and Abalone purfling.However, there are changes as well. Most notably, the positions of the controls have been altered. While the 3-way pickup selector switch and Tone knob are still roughly between the tailpiece and the bridge, the Volume knob has been shifted to a position right next to the bridge pickup. This makes it easier to control the volume while playing, which Santana likes to do. The new mini-toggle is in between the two knobs.Carlos made a new album with his new PRS Santana Signature MD, the album is called Ultimate .

In 21 August 2009, Carlos Santana in the guitar player's publication "Classic Rock Lead Guitar" introduce the new Signature guitar, PRS Santana Abraxas SE. This guitar the second Santana SE model, with totally new unique and unexpected( for his signature) design. This guitar has a single cutaway, classic PRS headstock, 22 frets, no tremolo bridge, single micro humbucker, pickguard and goes with recognized Abraxas Angel logo on the guitar body, Santana's name on the headstock, Carlos's personal signature on the back of the body and the hippie sign "Peace" on the 12th fret. Like the PRS Santana SE( which have ceased production), this model Paul Reed Smith Santana Abraxas SE is a student-edition guitar meant to increase the affordability of PRS-brand guitars.


For the distinctive Santana electric guitar sound, Santana does not use many effects pedals. His PRS guitar is connected to a Mu-Tron wah wah pedal (or, more recently, a Dunlop 535Q wah) and a T-Rex Replica delay pedal, then through a customized Jim Dunlop amp switcher which in turn is connected to the different amps or cabinets.

Previous setups include an Ibanez Tube Screamer right after the guitar.

In the song "Stand Up" from the album Marathon, Santana uses a Heil talk box in the guitar solo.


The Santana lead guitar tone is produced by a humbucker equipped guitar (Gibson/Yamaha/PRS) into a small but effective preamp (consisting of Gain & Master Volume controls) for the Mesa Boogie [ref. as above]. He also literally put the Boogie in Mesa Boogie: 'Santana exclaimed to Smith, "Shit, man. That little thing really Boogies!" It was this statement that brought the Boogie name to fruition.'

Specifically, Santana combines a Mesa/Boogie Mark I head running through a Boogie cabinet with Altec 417-8H (or recently JBL E120s) speakers, and a Dumble Overdrive Reverb and/or a Dumble Overdrive Special running through a Brown or Marshall 4x12 cabinet with Celestion G12M "Greenback" speakers, depending on the desired sound. Shure KSM-32 microphones are used to pick up the sound, going to the PA. Additionally, a Fender Cyber-Twin Amp is mostly used at home.


Albums with the band Santana

Albums as a solo artist or in collaborations

Unofficial releases


Note: The singles Smooth, Maria Maria, and Into The Night have each been certified Platinum by the RIAA.


  • Carlos Santana—Influences (video)
  • Sacred Fire. Live in Mexico. (video & DVD)
  • Supernatural (video & DVD)
  • Viva Santana (DVD)
  • Santana Live By Request (DVD)

Tribute albums

  • Ed Calle: Ed Calle Plays Santana (Universal Latino, 2004)


  1. The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time; Rolling Stone
  3. "Carlos Santana's wife of 34 years files for divorce" - CNN - November 2, 2007
  4. Santana - Musician's Corner - Blue Guitar
  5. Santana - Musician's Corner - Red Guitar
  6. PRS Guitars - Santana III
  7. Santana - Musician's Corner - Acoustic Guitar
  8. His rig can be seen in a magazine article cited at T-Rex's website
  9. "Carlos Santana Spreads the Gospel of Tone" by Darrin Fox, Guitar Player Magazine, June edition 2005.
  10. Overview of Santana's old effects setup.
  11. RIAA Gold and Platinum Search for albums by Santana
  12. RIAA Gold and Platinum Search for albums by Carlos Santana
  13. RIAA Gold and Platinum Search for singles by Santana


  • Soul Sacrifice; The Carlos Santana Story Simon Leng 2000
  • Space Between The Stars Deborah Santana 2004
  • Rolling Stone "The Resurrection of Carlos Santana" Ben Fong Torres 1972
  • New Musical Express "Spirit of Santana" Chris Charlesworth November 1973
  • Guitar Player Magazine 1978
  • Rolling Stone "The Epic Life of Carlos Santana" 2000
  • Santana I - Sony Legacy Edition: liner notes
  • Abraxas - Sony Legacy Edition: liner notes
  • Santana III - Sony Legacy edition: liner notes
  • Viva Santana - CBS CD release 1988; liner notes
  • Power, Passion and Beauty - The Story of the Legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra Walter Kolosky 2006
  • Best of Carlos Santana - Wolf Marshall 1996; introduction and interview

Further reading

  • Louise Chipley Slavicek. Carlos Santana. Chelsea House Publications or Facts on File, 2006, 119 p., ISBN 0-7910-8844-8
  • Simon Leng. Soul sacrifice : The Santana story. Firefly-S.A.F. Publishing, 2000, 224 p., ISBN 0-946719-29-2. Republished as Santana, Catedra, 2002, ISBN 8437619475
  • Jim McCarthy with Ron Sansoe, foreword by Carlos Santana. Voices of Latin rock : The people and events that created this sound. Omnibus Press, 2004 and Hal Leonard Publishing, 2005, 316 p., ISBN 0-634-08061-X
  • Hal Miller and Debbie Santana, edited by John Faulkner, with a foreword by Bill Graham. Santana : A retrospective of the Santana band's twenty years in music. San Francisco, Mission Cultural Center, 1987 or 1988, 50p., no ISBN. Includes a 4-p genealogical tree w/ the name of members of all Santana bands from 1966.
  • Henna Remstein. Carlos Santana (Latinos in the limelight). Chelsea House Publications, 2001, 64 p., ISBN 0-7910-6473-5
  • Marc Shapiro. Carlos Santana : Back on top. St-Martin's Press, 2000 and 2002, 288 p., ISBN 0-312-28852-2
  • Michael Sumsion. Maximum Santana : The unauthorized biography of Santana. Chrome Dreams, 2001 and 2003, ISBN 1-84240-107-6. Includes a CD w/ interviews
  • Adam Woog. Carlos Santana : Legendary guitarist. Lucent Books, 2006, 104 p., ISBN 1-59018-972-8

External links

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