After his peers like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton ushered the blues into the psychedelic era, Mexico-born Carlos Santana emerged from the San Francisco scene to bring a pronounced Latin flavor to the late-’60s rock revolution. And thanks to his revelatory performance at Woodstock, he become the first Hispanic guitar god in the process. With his rich, highly expressive tone serving as his eponymous band’s guiding light, Santana updated mambo standards like “Oye Como Va” into gritty funk workouts while reimagining Fleetwood Mac’s bluesy signature “Black Magic Woman” as a congo-powered Latin-jazz odyssey. Santana burrowed deeper into that spiritual potential on a series of meditative, largely instrumental albums in the ’70s, inspired by the philosophies of Indian guru Sri Chinmoy and the exploratory ethos of John Coltrane; then he reverted to the sleek soft rock of early-’80s mainstays like “Hold On.” This stylistic and pan-cultural fluidity attracted an all-star, genre-spanning guest list—Clapton and Lauryn Hill included—to Santana’s 1999 blockbuster Supernatural. If that album’s Rob Thomas–assisted summer jam “Smooth” reinvented Santana as a 21st-century pop star, his 2014 Spanish-language LP, Corazón, showed that his Latin roots are always in his heart.
- San Francisco, CA