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Biography of Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana (born July 20, 1947) is a Mexican and American musician who first became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band, Santana, which pioneered a fusion of rock and Latin American jazz. The band’s sound featured his melodic, blues-based guitar lines set against Latin and African rhythms featuring percussion instruments such as timbales and congas not generally heard in rock music. Santana continued to work in these forms over the following decades. He experienced a resurgence of popularity and critical acclaim in the late 1990s. In 2015, Rolling Stone magazine listed Santana at number 20 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists. He has won 10 Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards.
Santana was born in Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco, Mexico. He learned to play the violin at age five and the guitar at age eight under the tutelage of his father, a mariachi musician. His younger brother, Jorge Santana, would also become a professional guitarist. Young Carlos was heavily influenced by Ritchie Valens at a time when there were very few Mexicans in American rock and pop music. The family moved from Autlán de Navarro to Tijuana, the city on Mexico’s border with California, and then San Francisco. Carlos stayed in Tijuana but later joined his family in San Francisco. During his early years from the age of 10–12 he was sexually molested by an American man who brought him across the border.
Living in the Mission District, and eventually graduating from James Lick Middle School, and in 1965 from Mission High School. Carlos was accepted at California State University, Northridge, and Humboldt State University, but chose not to attend college.
Santana was influenced by popular artists of the 1950s such as B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, Javier Batiz, and John Lee Hooker. Soon after he began playing guitar, he joined local bands along the «Tijuana Strip» where he was able to begin adding his own unique touch to ’50s Rock ‘n’ Roll. He was also introduced to a variety of new musical influences, including jazz 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, Santana decided to become a full-time musician. In 1966 he gained prominence due to a series of accidental events, all happening on the same day. Santana was a frequent spectator at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West. During a Sunday matinee show, Paul Butterfield was slated to perform there but was unable to do so as a result of being intoxicated. Graham assembled an impromptu band of musicians he knew primarily through his connections with Butterfield’s band and with the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, but he had not yet chosen all the guitarists. Santana’s manager, Stan Marcum, immediately suggested to Graham that Santana join the impromptu band and Graham agreed. During the jam session, Santana’s guitar playing and solo gained the notice of both the audience and Graham. During the same year, Santana formed the Santana Blues Band, with fellow street musicians David Brown (bass guitar), Marcus Malone (percussion) and Gregg Rolie (lead vocals, Hammond Organ B3). He was later signed to Columbia where his band name, «Santana Blues Band» was shortened to, «Santana» that released a series of hit albums with an Afro-Cuban and Latin Rock feel thanks to Carlos’ exquisite guitar playing, characterized by the self-sustaining melody that became his trademark.
With their highly original blend of Latin-infused rock, jazz, blues, salsa, and African rhythms, the band (which quickly adopted their frontman’s name, Santana) gained an immediate following on the San Francisco club circuit. The band’s early success, capped off by a memorable performance at Woodstock in 1969, led to him signing a recording contract with Columbia Records, then run by Clive Davis.
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