Carlos Santana continues to look inward for inspiration in music and life
Look inside. Deep. Deeper. Now deeper still.
Behold the essence of Carlos Santana.
“Spirituality is something very tangible to give you assurance and a guarantee that the universe is abundant and at your service,” says the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer/Kennedy Center honoree/living-legend guitarist/Vegas headliner. “But you have to learn how to access it.”
Not so fast, potential spiritualists. Evaluate your attitude first. “A lot of people today have mental paralysis: They’re arrogant, they don’t have trust, faith or belief in anything outside of, ‘the world is going to hell.’ They’re cynical, which is like cement in your brain.”
Drain your brain of such negativity and you’re speaking the man’s language—of spirituality, not musicality. Few on this planet match this man’s talents. We can only gape in awe and let the music flow to our souls for a, well, spiritual experience.
“Music gives a spiritual sense of order to the molecules in your brain and your lungs and your heart. Music reminds you of the forgotten song inside you,” says Santana, who ranked 15th on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 greatest guitarists.
With last year’s release of Corazon—his 37th album—Santana reaffirmed both his popularity and longevity by joining Barbra Streisand as the only artists in Billboard history to score at least one top-10 album for six consecutive decades from the 1960s on. Also last year, his memoir, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light, was published.
Central to that story is his refusal to be imprisoned in any genre by the music industry or the public. “The Santana band refuses to be labeled with anything that has a ceiling on it,” he insists.
“If somebody asks me what kind of music I play, I say, ‘Life! All of it!’ We play all the slices of life. Once you let someone label you ‘The King of Latin Rock,’ you’re done. I remember the first time our album came out, somebody at Rolling Stone called us ‘a psychedelic mariachi rock band.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ You can’t go to the zoo and call me a penguin when I am the whole zoo.”
Visit his Las Vegas musical zoo—i.e., An Intimate Evening with Santana: Greatest Hits Live—and get every species. Classics such as “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va,” “Smooth” and “Maria Maria” should be expected, plus anything from jazz to African rhythms to pop and much more. Think you couldn’t possibly hear a chord burst in the middle of a melody that sounds oddly like “Tequila” or The Temptations’ “Get Ready”—or “My Favorite Things,” a nod to his hero, iconic saxophonist John Coltrane? Think again.
“When you play a melody, it’s an all-embracing hug,” Santana says. “Even Coltrane would quote, ‘do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-do-do-WEEE, ‘a hunting we will go!’ I think, He’s like me, he’s hunting for a new melody to visit.”
Everything he does onstage reflects and nourishes the spirituality that energizes this man, who advises that in a world marked by cynicism, people look back to the ’60s to restart their psychic engines. “It was the most exploratory decade, people were accessing the intangibles, the invisible worlds. People today have computers to do all kinds of things, and they’ve eliminated the most important quality in the human being, which is imagination,” says Santana, who encapsulates his philosophy thusly:
“You cannot behave appropriately unless you perceive correctly. Then you are a beam of light and you will carry yourself differently. You are created in the image of God—love, only love. Say: ‘I am meaningful and significant and I can make a difference in the world.’”