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Carlos Santana: From Woodstock to Vegas – A Conversation with a Shape Shifter

Carlos Santana: From Woodstock to Vegas - A Conversation with a Shape Shifter

Photograph by Maryanne Bilham

By Bob Sarles

Shape Shifter is an apt title for Carlos Santana’s new album—it may as well describe the legendary rock guitarist himself. Over a five-decade career, Carlos Santana’s various incarnations have seen him surpass expectations by returning to the top of the charts again and again.

Now a long way from the San Francisco Mission District of his youth, the teenaged Carlos was then a part of the city’s emerging mid-’60s Latin rock scene. Inspired by the great blues masters, rock ‘n’ roll, modern jazz and the music of his Mexican homeland, Santana formed the Carlos Santana Blues Band, which eventually evolved into the band the world would come to know simply as Santana. The group caught the eye of eminent concert promoter Bill Graham, who invited Santana to perform at his legendary Fillmore Auditorium. Graham was so impressed that he insisted on the Santana band being included in the lineup for a music festival taking place in New York State’s Catskill Mountains in August 1969. Thus the skyrocketing Santana band was the only act without a record release to their name that performed at Woodstock.

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