You would be hard-pressed to find a musician as dedicated to his craft than Carlos Santana. You would be even more challenged to find a musician who believes more in the power of music. For him, music is about meaning, healing energy, and the ability of it to bring out our supreme spirit of self reflection and internal power.
We live our lives at breakneck speeds. We run to and fro, surrounded by the din of technology and its voices calling us to enter its vapid world of commercial overindulgence. It’s up to the individual to look in the mirror and say, “Stop!” Realize, or finally admit that it’s impossible to take in all the information that comes at us. My plea to you is to take a few moments and slow down. Slow down and focus on the voices that are there to offer you true peace and calm. Take Carlos Santana, I wonder if we even realize the treasure we have in this man, his music, and his mission? Santana and his music has always been there, not intruding, but waiting to be discovered.
Consider this: He has been involved in the music scene years before his stunning performance at the Woodstock music festival in 1969. That performance introduced the world to this future icon who blended, intentionally or not a complex amalgamation of Latin Rock, Blues, Jazz, and World Music. He single-handedly brought to the mainstream the first multi-genre based musical collaboration, one that is curiously becoming the norm in pop music today some fifty years later! From his childhood in Mexico, where he began playing the violin, to his early jam days in San Francisco, with his Santana Blues Band, he had his sights on creating something new.
To show how delicate the edge of fate can be let’s look at the day that Santana and his bands music almost died. The Woodstock festival was run by a four-member committee who were all in their 20’s. They were not prepared for the onslaught of humanity that were marching towards the tiny upstate town of Bethel, New York, about 70 miles from Woodstock. Due to suffocating traffic, critical food shortages, and schedule delays, the almost destroyed what was to come for the band. Santana, and his band were scheduled to go on stage late in the first day. But, they were told to go on long before they were ready. They were rushed onto the stage and to their protests were given a “now or never” ultimatum.
There was a minor problem though. Santana and the band were given LSD backstage and were assured that they had plenty of time to “come down” from the high before performing. But, as luck would have it, they were “peaking” at the very time they received the order to go on. With no alternative, they went on. Santana himself admits that during the performance he was hanging on for dear life. According to him, his guitar neck begin to look like “an electric snake” moving back and forth. He pleaded to God that he could keep it together until the end of the set. It seems that God was forgiving to the man who was destined to contribute to music’s ever-evolving greatness. Certainly, Santana’s philosophy of the ‘divine energy’ of music was birthed on the stage that day.
Santana’s call to the masses to become illuminated with the majesty of music is one that is inspiring and uplifting. Coming from a man who seems to have witnessed the grace of God in real time, gives validity to his words. His crossroads moment was one that would continue onward as he has never wavered. However you look at it, he, and the band, made it through this almost catastrophic episode of colossal misjudgement.
Looking back, the Woodstock incident may have been Carlos Santana’s moment of clarity. His deal with God, to save him from himself and the LSD, certainly put him on the path to greatness. If anything, Carlos Santana is more emboldened to continue his mission and does so with passion. He has certainly done more for music than any other musician in memory. Humble, giving, and self-effacing, the man is what all musicians should aspire to be but aren’t. A man whose nature is to use music as his way to communicate the good in us is part of his DNA.
My cover of Carlos Santana’s beautiful “El Farol” from the 1999 album, “Supernatural”.