Best known the world over for the group that bears his name, Carlos Santana has been reinventing and reshaping the landscape of the known universe's musical culture for close to four decades. A visionary artist with no regards for genre boundaries, Carlos' fluid sound long ago laid claim to the concept of “world music” before the term ever surfaced on pop culture radar. Having evolved and expanded for over four decades, the “Carlos” sound could well be on its way to becoming interplanetary music.
Born in Autlan de Navarro, Mexico—where there's now a street and public square in his name--to the son of a virtuoso Mariachi violinist, Carlos followed in his father's musical footsteps, taking up the violin at the age of five. It was when his family moved to Tijuana several years later, however, that Santana began his lifelong relationship with the instrument that would make him a musical icon–-the guitar. Early on he emulated his heroes–-John Lee Hooker, T. Bone Walker, and B.B. King—who he heard on powerful American radio stations when their signals crossed the border.
In 1961, Carlos made the crossing himself, moving from his native Mexico to San Francisco. A few years later, he formed the Santana Blues Band there, and the cool, soulful riffs and rhythms of his Latin-blues based sound found an audience eager for his innovative musical ideas. Carlos and company emerged as giants of the era-defining Bay Area music scene of the late '60s, and their fame grew far beyond its parameters while their artistry remained true to its free-flying spirit.
Massive success quickly followed. By the end of the decade, Carlos had played to packed houses on a cross-country tour, performed on the venerable Ed Sullivan Show, and made an indelible global mark with Santana's legendary, crowd-detonating performance at the original Woodstock festival in 1969.
He has not slowed down since:
A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Santana has sold more than 90 million records, and performed to over 100 million people globally. He has won ten GRAMMYÆ Awards, including a record tying nine for a single project for his 36th album, the blockbuster 1999 disc Supernatural. Now exceeding 25 million in sales, Supernatural's citations included Album of the Year and Record of the Year for the smash single “Smooth.”
Most recently, Santana garnered a GRAMMY for the hit “The Game Of Love” from his 2001 album Shaman. Santana has also won three Latin GRAMMY Awards, and in 2004, he received the Latin Recording Academy's prestigious “Person of the Year” honor. His latest album, and third for Arista, 2005's All That I Am, continues Carlos' tradition of exciting collaborations with a diverse mix of fellow groundbreaking artists.
And with every award, every achievement, every accolade—--Carlos Santana has handled his success with humility, generosity, and grace, hallmarks of his character both as a private individual and as a world citizen.
Less publicized, but equally as profound as his artistic legacy, is Santana's long history of social activism and contributions time and funds to humanitarian causes. As a culmination of his decades of support for countless charities and non-profit agencies the world over, he and his wife of 30+ years, Deborah Santana, founded their Milagro Foundation in 1998. With over $1.8million in grants to date, Milagro supports organizations promoting the welfare of underserved children in the areas of health, education, and the arts.
More recently Santana has become deeply involved in the fight against the AIDS pandemic in South Africa through a partnership with ANSA – Artists for New South Africa. In 2003 he and Deborah donated all of the proceeds from Santana's American tour to the cause. Other organizations he has championed include Hispanic Education and Media Group, Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, Childreach, Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace, American Indian College Fund, Amnesty International, and the Los Angeles-based Museum of Tolerance.
Well into his fourth decade of recording and performing, Carlos Santana is at the pinnacle of his career, more vital and relevant than ever. He magnificently embodies both “old school” virtuosity and “new school” cool, continually reaching successive new generations of fans with his passionate music. His signature sound—fusing rock, jazz, blues, soul, Latin idioms, multi-cultural genres and more—is as unique as it is instantly identifiable. With his lifetime of music and achievement, Santana has become a cultural event-- transcending genre, crossing cultures–-creating the music that has become the soundtrack for the world.