Ladies and Gentlemen: Santana!

It was the spring of 1970. I was 16 years old and I went to a movie theater to see the film Woodstock (for the first time. There have been many more times since then). This film documented the legendary Rock music festival held on a farm owned by one Max Yasgur in Bethel, New York from August 15 to 18, 1969. Max was 49 years old in August of 1969, quite a bit older than the performers and the audience. 

One day, Max addressed the multitude and said, “I think you people have proven something to the world. That a half-million kids can get together and have three days of fun and music and nothing but fun and music and I God bless you for it!” There was a little more than that, Max, but we know you meant well.

In his autobiography, The Universal Tone, Carlos says that, “Yes, I was tripping (on a hallucinogenic such as either peyote, mescaline, ayahuasca or mushrooms, provided to him by Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead), and, yes, the guitar felt like a snake in my hands. No, I still can’t remember much about it…” 

Many of my favorite British and American Rock bands were at the festival and appeared in the film, such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Ten Years After, Jefferson Airplane, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, to name only a few. 

At that point, I had never heard of Carlos Santana, but when I saw and heard him play his guitar on a song called Soul Sacrifice, I was mesmerized! In my Anglocentric head at that time, I thought all Rock guitarists were 99% British and 1% American. Ever since that movie, I have been a Santana fan.  It was not long after that I let my hair grow down to my shoulders, started wearing bell-bottomed jeans but, even though I tried as hard as I could, I did not become cool and Latino. 

It was only a few days after the Woodstock Festival, August 22, 1969, that Santana’s first album, titled Santana, was released.  One song, Evil Ways, even impressed my mother!  Mom especially liked the line: “When I come home, Baby, my house is dark, and my thoughts are cold”.

It was the combination of his appearance at Woodstock, followed right away by the release of his first album, which launched Santana’s career.

On September 30, 1970, Santana released his second album, Abraxas, which included Oye Como Va, Tito Puente’s cha-cha-cha song written in 1962. I had to look in a Spanish/English dictionary to find out what oye como va meant, but once I did, I knew the title and lyrics fit the sound of the song perfectly.  Santana took Puente’s version and adapted it to Latin Rock. 

Also, on Abraxas is what I think of as Santana’s masterpiece, the guitar instrumental Samba pa’ Ti. That song and the Beatles’ The Long and Winding Road are tied as the top favorite songs of my life. I told my wife I want those two songs to be played at my funeral.  

Carlos, in The Universal Tone, says that “Samba pa’ ti” was definitely about developing romance and beauty in my playing. I wanted a naked, undressed feeling, a feeling of vulnerability”.  That song is indeed romantic and beautiful; so much so that, when my wife and I attended a Santana concert at the Hard Rock in 2014 and, with the first couple of notes of Samba pa’ ti, I grabbed her and kissed her so romantically, that I startled the people around us!

Over his career, Santana has released 26 studio albums, eight live albums, sixty-one singles, and twenty-three compilation albums. Since Woodstock, his career success has only skyrocketed. His best-selling album, so far, is Supernatural, released on June 15, 1999, and which has sold an estimated thirty million copies worldwide!

Appearing with Santana and his band will be Counting Crows which, according to their website: “For more than two decades, the GRAMMY and Academy Award-nominated rock band Counting Crows have enchanted listeners worldwide with their intensely soulful and intricate take on timeless rock & roll.”  Timeless rock and roll sounds good to me.

The date is Friday, June 14 at 7:00 PM and the place is the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. You know, the guitar hotel in Hollywood.

Click here to read the Spanish version.

Ed Kennedy has a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of New Orleans. He earned an MBA from Florida International University (FIU) in 2008 and a Master's in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from FIU in 2019. In 2018, Kennedy retired from a career in commercial insurance and now works for Miami-Dade College as an English writing tutor. He is also studying for a bachelor's degree in Global Languages at FIU.