Carlos August Santana Alves was born on July 20, 1947 in Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco in southwestern region of Mexico. His family moved north to Tijuana when he was eight, and they crossed the border and settled in San Francisco's Mission District in the early '60s. By the time he moved to San Francisco, he was already on his way to mastering the guitar. In San Francisco, he bore witness to musicians who first inspired him in Tijuana. People like B.B. King and Little Richard came to play in the city, and at that time period, the '60s San Francisco scene was just starting to heat up, so Santana had many avenues to pursue music.
In 1966, he formed the Santana Blues Band with local musicians David Brown and Greg Rolie (who would go on form another famous San Francisco band, Journey). The band played Latin-based rock 'n' roll with touches of blues, jazz, and salsa music. Santana quickly became noted for his virtuosic lead guitar work and his guitar's warm, full-bodied tone. Santana's 1969 debut, Santana (Columbia) was recorded in the San Francisco suburb of San Mateo, and its nine tracks built one of 20th century music's finest hours. Featuring classics like "Shades of Time" and "Evil Ways," the disc went on to sell over two million copies in the States and continues to capture new fans.
If his debut didn't fully get his foot in the door, Carlos karate-kicked it down with his sophomore release, Abraxas (Columbia, 1970). The effort features legendary tracks like "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen," "Samba Pa Ti," and the immortal "Oye Como Va." The group's eclectic style combined with Carlos' guitar acrobatics made him a superstar both at home and abroad. Abraxas sold over five million copies in the States and is widely viewed as one of the greatest rock releases of all time. From there, Santana went on to release over 20 more albums, touching on a musical litany of different genres, and finally scored an American platinum-certified album with his 1999 release Supernatural.
Instead of employing a full-time singer for the album, he collaborated with many of music's biggest stars and up-and-coming artists to create one of the most popular releases of the decade, selling over 15 million copies stateside. The album's lead single, "Smooth," featured Matchbox 20 front man Rob Thomas on vocals and was an unmitigated success, topping all the major singles charts and staking its claim as one of the most ubiquitous singles of the decade. The record also features guests like Dave Matthews, Wyclef Jean, and Lauryn Hill. The closer, "The Calling" is a slice of heaven for guitar players. The seven-plus minute number features a clash of guitar gods, as Santana takes on Eric Clapton in a guitar duel of epic proportions. His subsequent follow-ups, 2002's Shaman and All That I Am were also definite successes, though not quite on the scale of Supernatural. The best thing about Carlos' comeback (besides the music) was that it re-introduced all of his signature sound and passion to a whole new generation of fans, who could investigate all his old brilliant albums.
Over 60 years old, Santana shows no signs of slowing down or relinquishing his spot in the pantheon of the greatest guitarists in the world. He continues to play sold-out shows all over the world, while preaching peace and understanding. He continues to be an inspiration to young, aspiring players everywhere and is extremely active in social work in Latino communities around the US.