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Upper cutting the Woodstock crowd with a fist of Latin rock fusion was Santana. The band that bears the name of lead guitarist Carlos Santana was playing world music before the term even existed.
The Mexican born guitarist moved to San Francisco from Mexico in 1961 and formed the band Santana in 1966. The blues influenced band toured extensively around the San Francisco area in the years leading up to Woodstock and were managed by the legendary concert promoter Bill Graham.
The performance at Woodstock came just before the release of their first self-titled album. The set which consisted of “Waiting”, “You Just Don’t Care”, “Savor”, ” Jingo”, “Persuasion”, “Soul Sacrifice”, and “Fried Neckbones” appealed greatly to the crowd and they were deemed as one of the surprises of the concert. Their eleven minute instrumental “Soul Sacrifice” was featured on the Woodstock movie and greatly boosted their popularity.
Following their breakthrough performance at Woodstock 1969, their first album soared up the charts reaching number four on the U.S. album charts while their single “Evil Ways” reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.
The unexpected success that the band was experiencing tore the members in different directions. Santana himself wished to take the music in a jazzier direction due to his fascination with Miles Davis and Johnny Coltrane, while the other members desired to stick with the hard rock elements in which the group was rooted.
After a spiritual journey, an overall unsuccessful transition into jazz fusion, a performance at the 25th anniversary of Woodstock, and a 1998 induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Santana re-emerged in 1999 with the album “Supernatural”. The album featured the chart shattering single “Smooth” which included lyrics and vocals by Matchbox 20 front man Rob Thomas. Collaborations on the album also included Eric Clapton, Lauryn Hill, and Dave Matthews.
Since the ungodly popularity of “Supernatural”, Carlos Santana continues to collaborate with popular musicians such as Steven Tyler, Kirk Hammett of Metallica, and Sean Paul. He represents the bridge between Spanish influenced guitar and American hard rock. Santana has managed to surprise listeners for four decades with his ability to blend genres as well as cultural elements within his music.