Wednesday, (September 7th 10. 22:00) on BBC Radio 2
Craig Charles presents the story of one of the world’s greatest guitarists, Mexican-born Carlos Santana, who burst on to the San Francisco music scene in the late 1960s, playing a unique blend of Latin rock with his band Santana. A truly original “world music” ambassador, he has sold more than 90 million records, including Evil Ways, Oye Como Va, Black Magic Woman and, more recently, the multi-Grammy award winning album, Supernatural, which attracted a younger generation of Santana fans.
Santana’s story is told through the words of Carlos himself; and some of the musicians he has worked with including drummer Michael Shrieve, jazz guitarist and spiritual soul mate John McLaughlin, Scottish singer Alex Ligertwood; record company legend Clive Davis, who signed Santana to Columbia back in 1969; former roadie and soundman Herbie Herbert, who witnessed the original recording band at their peak from the side of the stage; and we hear from the next generation of the Santana musical dynasty, Santana’s piano playing son Salvador.
In the first programme, Clive Davis remembers the excitement of signing the Santana band, and early hits like Evil Ways, Jingo, Oye Como Va, and Black Magic Woman. The marriage worked well and Davis, along with rock promoter Bill Graham, steered the band to major success.
One of their biggest breaks was playing at Woodstock as an unknown band. Drummer Michael Shrieve remembers looking out at an “ocean of faces” and “just playing for themselves rather than being entertainers”. He also recalls the ambition and focus of the young Carlos Santana. When Shrieve asked if Carlos wanted to go the cinema, the reply was: “Why would I want to go the movies? I wanna be in the movies. I wanna be the movie”.
We hear how their hard work and constant rehearsing paid off and how the introduction of the Latin rhythms gave Santana a totally unique sound on hits like Samba Pa Ti, on their second album Abraxas. But with success, came excess, and former roadie Herbie Herbert remembers the spiralling effect. Despite making a terrific third album, Santana III, the band was self-destructing.
Shrieve and Carlos describe the natural progression into jazz and experimental music which coincided with a more spiritual path and the influence of Indian spiritual teacher Sri Chimnoy. John McLaughlin, a fellow Sri Chimnoy follower, recalls their spiritual and musical collaboration on the 1973 album Love Devotion Surrender.
Amidst the experimentation, Carlos was under heavy pressure to return to a more commercial rock sound. No longer a band, but Carlos Santana with backing musicians, he struggled to regain the fire and popularity of that original band. By the end of the century, Santana records were not hitting the charts anymore, but a comeback was just round the corner with the 15 times platinum album Supernatural.
Tags: Carlos Santana, Jim McCarthy, Michael Shrieve, Voices of Latin Rock