Over the course of his long and rewarding career – encompassing the five most profound
evolutionary decades in the history of contemporary music, from the 1960s to the ‟00s – Carlos Santana has remained steadfastly loyal to the twin tenets of artistry: First, respect for the
traditions and influences of the past, and second, the ability to recognize and welcome change.
Examples of the first can be found throughout Santana‟s rich and colorful history – homages to Olatunji, Gabor Szabo, Tito Puente, Willie Bobo, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, even early rock
bands Fleetwood Mac and the Zombies. Examples of the second can also be found throughout
the Santana discography, but you don‟t have to look any further than the most recent trilogy of
blockbuster albums on Arista Records – Supernatural (1999), Shaman (2002), and All That I Am (2005) – to know that, for Santana, the cutting edge is always the sharpest place to be.
Both aspects of this artistic vision are found on Ultimate Santana (October 16, 2007), the first
anthology to include touchstone tracks from the band‟s earliest hitmaking years on Columbia
Records alongside the groundbreaking collaborations that highlight the Arista years. From the self-titled debut album, Ultimate Santana includes the first Top 10 single, “Evil Ways.” From the
second album, 1970‟s Abraxas, come Tito Puente‟s “Oye Como Va” and Fleetwood Mac‟s “Black
Magic Woman,” plus a Santana original classic“Samba Pa Ti.” The early run of Top 40 hits was
extended with “Everybody‟s Everything” and “No One To Depend On,” from 1971‟s aptly titled
Santana would return to the Top 40 singles charts again and again although, to be sure, the
band‟s music has always defined so-called “album-oriented rock” at its highest, most intriguing levels of sophistication. Their fusion of blues, soul, hard rock, el ritmo Latino, Afro-Cuban, gypsy, jazz, and folk transcends categorization, which is a tribute to the leadership and conscience of
Carlos Santana. Even within the confines of four-minute singles, the band‟s sound sacrifices
none of its mystery and contagious allure.
The inevitable reconquest of the singles charts is also celebrated on Ultimate Santana, which reprises “Smooth” (co-written by and featuring Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty), “Maria Maria” (featuring Product G&B), and “Corazon Espinado” (featuring Maná), all from Supernatural; “The Game of Love” (featuring Michelle Branch) and “Why Don‟t You and I” (featuring Chad Kroeger), both from Shaman; and “Just Feel Better” (featuring Steven Tyler of Aerosmith) from All That I Am, as well as other tracks (including an alternate version of “The Game of Love” with Tina
Turner, and the album‟s first single “Into The Night” with Chad Kroeger, both previously
Clearly, moving to Arista marked a welcome and highly successful reunion with Clive Davis, the
executive who first signed Santana to Columbia Records in 1968, and oversaw the band‟s
formative years on the path to international superstardom starting in 1969. Three decades later,
Davis, Arista & J Records founder/Chairman & CEO, BMG U.S., and an unparalleled hitmaker in
his own right, stepped up as producer with Carlos of all three Arista albums.
“I pleasantly defer to Clive,” says Santana respectfully. “Clive has an ear for hits, but he is also
unafraid to send producers and songwriters back to the studio until a song is perfect. Clive is one
of those rare people who knows what a song needs to attract all humans, and I‟m just grateful
that after first signing me so many years ago, we‟re still working together. What we do together in
the studio is not a gimmick, it‟s grace.”
Their first project, Supernatural, became an unsurpassed industry phenom, the #1 album of the
year and the #6 best-selling album in Soundscan history, 15-times RIAA platinum in the U.S.
alone, with nearly double that number of sales worldwide. The album spent 102 weeks on the
Billboard chart including 12 weeks at #1 – no album since then has logged more than 8 weeks at the top. The album‟s success was fueled by “Smooth” which spent 12 weeks at #1 on the Hot
100, Santana‟s first #1 single; and “Maria Maria,” 10 weeks at #1 pop, and 3 weeks at #1 R&B.
Most significantly, Supernatural generated nine Grammy awards, an all-time record for a single
album project, including Album Of the Year and Best Rock Album, as well as Record Of the Year,
Song of the Year, and Best Pop Collaboration, all for “Smooth”; plus Best Pop Performance by a
Duo/Group for “Maria Maria”; Best Rock Performance by a Duo/Group for “Put Your Lights On”
(featuring Everlast); Best Rock Instrumental Performance for “The Calling” (featuring Eric
Clapton); and Best Pop Instrumental Performance (“El Farol”). There were also premiere Latin
GRAMMY Awards (the show‟s first year) for Record Of The Year and Best Rock Performance by
a Duo/Group for “Corazon Espinado” (featuring Maná).
Supernatural was a hard act to follow – but 2002‟s Shaman gave Santana a second consecutive
#1 multi-platinum album. The lead single track was “The Game of Love” featuring Michelle
Branch, but there were also collaborations with Dido, Citizen Cope, Placido Domingo, Macy Gray,
Chad Kroeger, Alejandro Lerner, Musiq, Ozomatli, P.O.D., and Seal.
2005‟s All That I Am, which entered the Billboard 200 albums chart at #2, featured collaborations with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith (on “Just Feel Better”), Big Boi of OutKast and Mary J. Blige (on
“My Man”), will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas (on “I Am Somebody”), Joss Stone and Sean Paul (on
“Cry Baby Cry”), Michelle Branch, Raphael Saadiq of Tony! Toni! Tone! and the Wreckers (all on “I‟m Feeling You”), plus Anthony Hamilton, Kirk Hammett & Robert Randolph, Bo Bice, and Los
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The trilogy of albums represents an amazing run for Santana, inducted into the Rock And Roll
Hall Of Fame in 1998, the year before he joined Arista. “No wonder Santana‟s magical fusions
were like a revelation for listeners in the Third World,” wrote Daisann McLane in the Induction
Dinner book, an essay that focused on Santana‟s huge impact on populations far removed from
the American rock sphere. “His music said that you didn‟t have to choose between imported
American pop music and local sounds. With every exclamation of „Sabor!,‟ with every smoking
guitar riff over that chugging African conga. Santana‟s records proclaimed that you could have it
all, in one stunning and soulful package.”
Long before “world music” was a genre on record store shelves – or even had a name, for that matter – Carlos Santana and the band that bears his name were laying down the tracks that
would bring homegrown electric American music to the four corners of the globe. In turn, the
music ricocheted back to our shores, filtered through the musical waterfalls of Afro-pop and Afro-
beat, Caribbean voodoo-rock, and a dozen geopolitical musical zones that took Santana to heart
as one of their own.
Carlos Humberto Santana de Barragan came from the humblest of backgrounds. He was born
1947, in Autlan de Navarro, Jalisco, Mexico (where a street and public square now bear his
name), the son of a mariachi violinist, a virtuoso who instilled a musical spirit in the boy who
began playing violin at age five. Later on, when the family moved north to the wilder border town
of Tijuana, Carlos took up the guitar and began to absorb his first influences. Listening to the
powerful American radio stations whose signals reached into Mexico, he fell under the spell of
John Lee Hooker, T. Bone Walker, and B.B. King, a trinity of guitar heroes whose styles blurred
the lines of blues and jazz.
By age 14, his family had moved to San Francisco, where Carlos graduated high school in 1965.
He soon began attending shows promoted by Bill Graham and others at the Fillmore, Winterland,
and Avalon ballrooms. It was an eclectic crash course in Muddy Waters, Mongo Santamaria,
British rock, and the first wave of first generation Bay Area bands whose members were all just a
few years older than him: Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Grateful Dead,
Quicksilver Messenger Service.
The Santana Blues Band was formed in 1966, its name owed to some fine print in the San
Francisco musicians union contract that one person be named the leader, though everyone
thought of it as a collective. The band‟s heady concoction of West Coast soul, Latin percussion, groovy organ, and Carlos‟ stratospheric lead guitar was an immediate sensation. By 1967, they
were known simply as Santana, and eventually came to the attention of Graham, who booked
them for the first time at the Fillmore West on June 16, 1968. Santana was signed to the label by
Clive Davis before the end of the year.
The band‟s first Columbia recording sessions took place in January 1969, but were shelved
(unreleased for 35 years until 2004). After a personnel shift, the actual sessions took place in
May for the landmark Santana debut album. The LP release was perfectly scheduled – for
Tuesday, August 19, 1969, following their historic Saturday afternoon performance at the
Woodstock Music & Art Fair (the only major act to play the festival before their debut album had
been released). When Top 40 radio discovered “Evil Ways” in early 1970, it vaulted the album to
#4, on its way to double-platinum, and the rank of #150 in Rolling Stone magazine‟s 500 Greatest Albums.
The debut‟s success was eclipsed at the end of 1970, when “Oye Como Va” and “Black Magic
Woman” sent Abraxas to #1 for 6 weeks; the Grammy Hall Of Fame album has sold more than 5
million copies to date in the U.S. alone. With “Everybody‟s Everything” and “No One To Depend
On” again reaching the Top 40, 1971‟s Santana III spent 5 weeks at #1 and brought a third consecutive multi-platinum award.
In many ways, the band‟s career is bookended by Santana, Abraxas and Santana III on one end
of the timeline, and – three decades later – Supernatural, Shaman and All That I Am at the other
end of the timeline. The myriad adventures in between – starting with the 20-year association of
Carlos Santana and Columbia Records, and coming full circle to nearly a decade now with Clive
Davis at Arista – have been chronicled in even more books than there are original studio and live
albums in the official Santana catalogue (more than 35 titles to date on Columbia,
Columbia/Legacy, Polydor, and Arista).
The arc of Santana‟s performing and recording career is complemented by a lifelong devotion to social activism and humanitarian causes. Carlos and Deborah Santana, his wife of more than 30
years, launched their Milagro Foundation in 1998, the culmination of decades of support for
countless charities and non-profit agencies the world over. With over $2 million in grants to date,
Milagro supports organizations promoting the welfare of underserved children in the areas of
health, education, and the arts.
Carlos has also become deeply involved in the fight against the AIDS pandemic in South Africa,
through a partnership with ANSA – Artists for New South Africa. In fact, all of the proceeds from Santana's 2003 American tour were donated by Carlos and Deborah to the cause. Other
organizations they have championed include Hispanic Education and Media Group, Doctors
Without Borders, Save the Children, Childreach, Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace,
American Indian College Fund, Amnesty International, and the Los Angeles-based Museum of
After more than 40 years on the world stage, Carlos Santana is at a new pinnacle in his career,
more vital and relevant – and more exposed on radio, tv and the Internet – than ever before. His
passionate “old school” virtuosity and “new school” cool attract the hippest artists to every new
recording project that he and Clive Davis undertake. At the essence of it all is a signature sound
that is unique and instantly identifiable. With his lifetime of achievement and dedication to music,
every move that Santana makes is nothing less than a multi-cultural event – the soundtrack for