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Santana Biography


Home > Music > S > Santana > Biography


Birth Place: San Francisco, California, United States
Years Active: 1967 – present
Genres: Rock, Pop Rock, Latin Rock, Hard Rock, Blues-rock, Jazz Fusion, Psychedelic Rock


Santana is a rock band based around guitarist Carlos Santana. Santana formed in 1967 in San Francisco and was originally known as the Carlos Santana Blues Band. The first members were Carlos Santana (lead guitar), Tom Fraser (lead vocals & rhythm guitar), Mike Carabello (percussion), Rod Harper (drums), David Brown (bass guitar) and Gregg Rolie (organ).

Santana signed with Columbia Records and released their self-titled debut album, “Santana,” in 1969. The album reached #4 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and earned a 2× platinum certification. Although the lead single “Jingo” failed to create much interest when released, “Evil Ways,” the second single taken from the album, was a U. S. Top 10 hit.

Next, Santana released “Abraxas,” in 1970, which topped the Billboard 200 and earned a 5× platinum certification. It featured signature Santana songs, “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen,” “Se a Cabo” and the Tito Puente penned “Oye Como Va.”

The band's second self-titled album, often referred to as “Santana III” to distinguish it from the band's 1969 debut release, was the third and last album by the Woodstock-era lineup. The album featured two singles, “Everybody's Everything” which hit #12 and “No One To Depend On” which became a staple on FM radio. This was the first album to feature 17-year-old Neal Schon on guitar. In 1972 he and Gregg Rolie left the band to form Journey. “Santana III” became their second to reach #1 on the Billboard 200.

“Caravanserai” released in 1972 marked a major turning point in Carlos Santana's career as the mostly jazz-like instrumental passages were a sharp departure from his critically acclaimed first three albums. Original bassist David Brown left the group in 1971 and was replaced by Doug Rauch and Tom Rutley, while original percussionist Michael Carabello left and was replaced by Armando Peraza. Keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Rolie, who was having a falling-out with Santana, was replaced by Tom Coster on a few songs. “Caravanserai” reached the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart in 1972.

Released in 1973, “Welcome” featured guitarist John McLaughlin, who had collaborated with Carlos Santana on “Love Devotion Surrender.” “Welcome” also featured John Coltrane's widow, Alice, as a pianist on the album's opening track, “Going Home,” and Flora Purim, the wife of Airto Moreira, on vocals.

The jazz-funk oriented sound continued in 1974 with the release of “Borboletta.” The album was influenced by the contributions of percussionist Airto Moreira and featured bassist Stanley Clarke.

1977 saw the release of “Festival” and “Moonflower.” A studio and live double album, “Moonflower” displayed a mix between the fusion of Latin and blues-rock styles of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the much more experimental and spiritual jazz fusion sound that characterized the band's mid-1970s work. The live material was recorded during the supporting tour for the “Festival” album, which displayed a similar mix of styles, and many of the album's songs are featured here – namely, the three song medley which opened “Festival.” A cover version of the Zombies' mid-1960s hit song “She's Not There” was released as a single and peaked at #27. The song was the first Santana recording to hit the Top 40 of the Billboard charts since “No One to Depend On” reached #36 in 1972. The album reached #10 on the Billboard 200 and was eventually certified platinum.

Santana's move away from the fusion of Latin, jazz, rock and blues that marked his previous records and began to move towards an Album Oriented Rock direction with 1978’s “Inner Secrets.” “Stormy” and “One Chain (Don't Make No Prison)” were both hit singles.

In 1979, “Marathon” was released and featured the Top 40 hit, “You Know That I Love You.” Alex Ligertwood, who would sing with the band throughout the '80s, made his debut with the group on this album. “Zebop!” was released in 1981 and saw the band return to the Top 10 of the Billboard 200, peaking at #9. The album featured cover versions of Cat Stevens’ “Changes” as well as a take on J.J. Cale’s “The Sensitive Kind.” Another single, “Winning” went to #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart.

Their 1982 album, “Shangó” featured the single, “Hold On” which reached #15 on the Hot 100. A second single from the album, “Nowhere to Run,” peaked at #66 on the Hot 100 chart. 1985’s “Beyond Appearances,” apart from Carlos Santana, involved a completely different line-up from the band’s previous LP. It was firmly in the style of the 1980s, making much use of synthesizers and drum machines. “Beyond Appearances” performed relatively poorly, reaching #50 on the Billboard 200. One of its tracks, “Say It Again,” reached #46 on the Hot 100.

Featuring nine members, many of which had returned after being with the band in previous versions, Santana released “Freedom” in 1987. It returned the band to their Latin rock roots, and managed to peak at #95 on the Billboard 200. 1990’s “Spirits Dancing in the Flesh” did not fare much better, peaking at #85 on the Billboard 200.

“Milagro,”was released in 1992 and dedicated to Miles Davis and Bill Graham, and was Santana's first album on the Polydor label after 22 years with Columbia Records. It was their first new studio album not to enter the Billboard Top 100 in the U.S.

Santana’s greatest success came with the release of their 15th studio album, 1999’s “Supernatural.” The star-studded album with mostly younger artists 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. It was phenomenally successful, eventually selling over 27 million copies worldwide and was certified 15× platinum. It's the most successful album by Santana, and charted in ten countries, including #1 on the Billboard 200. It included the hit single “Smooth,” which featured Matchbox Twenty singer Rob Thomas on vocals, and was a #1 hit on the Hot 100 for 12 weeks. The follow-up single, “Maria Maria,” was #1 on the same chart for 10 weeks. Santana and Rob Thomas won two Grammy Awards for their collaboration on the song “Smooth” while Santana and Everlast won another for the song “Put Your Lights On.” In total the album won nine Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year as well as three Latin Grammy Awards including Record of the Year.

“Shaman” was released in 2002 and again featured various famous rock, hip hop, and pop artists. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and was certified 2× platinum. The first single released was “The Game of Love” which featured Michelle Branch and peaked at #5 on the Hot 100. “Why Don't You & I,” which featured Alex Band of The Calling, would peak at #8 on the Hot 100.

2005 saw the release of “All That I Am” which reached #2 on the Billboard 200. The album followed the format of his previous two studio releases, consisting of primarily collaborations with other artists. The first single of the album, “I'm Feeling You,” featured Michelle Branch and The Wreckers. The second single, “Just Feel Better,” featured Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

A collection of classic rock covers, “Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time” was released in 2010. It featured guest performances by several popular vocalists, including India.Arie, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Scott Stapp of Creed, Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, Chris Daughtry of Daughtry, Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, Rob Thomas, and rapper Nas. It peaked at #5 on the Billboard 200 and featured the single, a cover of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which featured India.Arie and Yo-Yo Ma. The second single was a cover of the Def Leppard song, “Photograph” which featured Chris Daughtry.

In 1998, the group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with Carlos Santana, Jose Chepito Areas, David Brown, Mike Carabello, Gregg Rolie and Michael Shrieve being honored.