Inductees: Carlos Santana (guitar, vocals; born 7/20/47), Jose Chepito Areas (timbales; born 7/25/46), David Brown (bass; born 2/15/47), Mike Carabello (congas; born 11/18/47), Gregg Rolie (keyboards, lead vocals; born 6/17/47), Michael Shrieve (drums; born 7/6/49)
Guitarist Carlos Santana is one of rock’s true virtuosos and guiding lights. Since 1966, he has led the group that bears his surname, selling over 30 million albums and performing before 13 million people. Though numerous musicians have passed through Santana’s ranks, the continuing presence of Carlos Santana at the helm has insured high standards. From the earliest days, when Santana first overlaid Afro-Latin rhythms upon a base of driving blues-rock, they have been musical sorcerers. The melodic fluency and kineticism of Santana’s guitar solos and the piercing, sustained tone that is his signature have made him one of rock’s standout instrumentalists. Coupled with the polyrhythmic fury of drums, congas and timbales, the sound of Santana in full flight is singularly exciting. Underlying it all is Santana’s belief that music should “create a bridge so people can have more trust and hope in humanity.”
The son of an accomplished mariachi violinist, Carlos Santana was born in Autlan de Navarro, Mexico, in 1947. As a young violin prodigy, he performed with his father’s band on the streets of Tijuana and then switched to guitar after hearing blues and rock and roll on the radio. By the early Sixties, the Santana family had relocated to San Francisco. Carlos formed the first version of Santana in 1966. As the Santana Blues Band, they played the clubs and ballrooms of that city during the glory years of the Haight-Ashbury scene. By the time Santana took the stage at Woodstock in 1969, the group had settled into its classic lineup of Carlos Santana, Gregg Rolie, David Brown, Mike Carabello, Jose Chepito Areas, and Michael Shrieve (drums). Santana’s riveting performance at Woodstock in August 1969 made them one of the festival’s surprise hits. There was great anticipation when the debut album Santana was released in October. It shot to Number Four and yielded two hit singles: “Jingo” and “Evil Ways.”
Santana’s star further ascended when the Woodstock film and soundtrack album, which contained their fiery rendition of “Soul Sacrifice,” were released in 1970. The group reached its popular zenith later that year with Abraxas and its hit singles, “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” and “Oye Como Va.” Santana III (1971) kept the momentum going with songs like “No One to Depend On” and “Everybody’s Everything.” At this point, Santana had it all: underground credibility, mainstream popularity, gold albums, hit singles, a well-earned reputation as a dynamic live band, and a unique sound that drew upon Latin, rock and jazz influences. At this juncture, the original six-man group was augmented by second guitarist Neal Schon (who later formed Journey with keyboardist Gregg Rolie) and percussionist Coke Escovedo.
The year 1972 found Santana moving in a more experimental direction with Caravanserai. Personnel changes followed as Carlos Santana began functioning as both bandleader and solo artist. Drawing from the jazz world, he worked with vocalist Leon Thomas, guitarist John McLaughlin, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, percussionist Airto Moreira, bassist Stanley Clarke, keyboardist Herbie Hancock, and drummer Billy Cobham, among others. At the same time, the Santana band periodically re-embraced its Latin-rock roots on such albums as Amigos (1976), Festival (1977), Moonflower (1977) and Zebop! (1981). Musicians who made notable contributions to Santana after the dissolution of the original lineup include keyboardist Tom Coster, bassist Doug Rauch and percussionist Armando Peraza. Santana’s early-Seventies transition is well-documented on Lotus, recorded at a 1973 concert in Japan.
Carlos Santana personally programmed and supervised the release of a career-spanning anthology, Viva Santana, in 1988. Santana ended his 22-year tenure at Columbia Records in 1990. He moved to Polygram, where he released Milagro (1992) and Sacred Fire-Live in South America (1993). But the best was yet to come. Carlos Santana again switched labels to Arista Records, where he enjoyed one of the most incredible comebacks in rock history. With input and encouragement from then-president Clive Davis and participation from popular young artists like Rob Thomas (of Matchbox 20), Lauryn Hill and Everlast, Santana cut Supernatural (1999). A genuine phenomenon, Supernatural has sold 21 million copies and launched #1 hits in “Smooth” and “Maria, Maria.”
Santana’s resurgence culminated with a sweep of the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards on February 23, 2000. That night, Santana and Supernatural won Grammys in nine categories: Record of the Year and Song of the Year ("Smooth"); Album of the Year and Best Rock Album (Supernatural); Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals ("Smooth," with Rob Thomas); Best Pop Instrumental ("El Farol"); Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group ("Put Your Lights On,” with Everlast); Best Rock Instrumental ("The Calling,” with Eric Clapton); and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals ("Maria Maria"). Beyond all the awards and sales, Supernatural carried a higher meaning for Carlos Santana. As he told Rolling Stone, “It’s a personal invitation from me to people: remember your divinity.”