1) His verbal skills are unparalleled.
You have to hand it to a guy who says things like “that chord has got to be closer to the light,” and “I want to reconnect the molecules with the light, man, you know?” Luckily, he’s had people like talented keyboardist Tom Coster and record company legend Clive Davis to translate for him.
2) Even on LSD, his playing rocks.
Yes, it’s true. During the famous concert appearance at Woodstock, Carlos Santana (and other members of the band) had dropped acid. Yet when you watch his performance in the film, it doesn’t seem to have put him off his stride at all. Amazing!
3) His varied tastes in music show his breadth.
Santana has played with jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter, rapper/songwriter Everlast, fusion guitarist John McLaughlin, quirky pop maven Lauren Hill, and many, many other artists. This is not something that was dreamed up for his 1999 career renaissance, Supernatural — he’s being doing it for decades. From the very beginning, it has added a depth to his playing.
4) He helped develop Paul Reed Smith guitars.
Let’s face it, without Carlos Santana, PRS guitars probably would not have reached the popularity they enjoy today. And that’s important. While Fender and Gibson guitars are still awesome, it’s about time another company became classic!
5) He helped launch the Mesa/Boogie amp company.
Mesa/Boogie amps really did change the sound of electric guitar — for the better. No wonder they’re still not only in common use, but widely imitated as well. Carlos Santana played an integral part in driving their creation, and helping to promote them, too.
6) Latin music has reached a broader audience because of him.
Although he probably didn’t set out to do it, Carlos helped to popularize Latin music. The whole Spanish rock movement was germinated with Santana, and the influence of afro-cuban percussion has helped to broaden listeners’ appreciation of more complex rhythms.
7) Non-musicians can appreciate his solos.
That’s no easy feat! Walking a delicate line between simplicity and virtuosity, Santana’s solos are melodic enough to be hooks — understood and appreciated by everyone, not just other guitar players. And that helps promote the cause of guitar players in general.
8) A line of women’s shoes bears his name.
How many guys would be so confident that they would allow a women’s shoe line (Carlos by Carlos) to represent them. And not just any shoes — struttin’-your-stuff, high-heeled, “Ay, chihuahua” shoes. Yowza!
9) He writes memorable instrumental tunes.
It’s a testament to his melodic and compositional ability that people know Europa and Samba Pa Ti — and love them. In an age when instrumental music is relegated to niche markets (even movies are using more and more vocal songs), Santana’s instrumental songs are still beloved.
10) Philanthropy is more than just a buzz word to him.
Many high profile artists are involved in charity. Carlos actually went so far as to create — with his wife, Deborah — an organization dedicated to helping children the world over. The Milagro Foundation has raised and donated more than 3 million dollars in the last 10 years.
11) He demonstrates there’s no age limit to rock.
While other musicians have dimmed over the years, 61-year-old Carlos Santana seems to have the same fire he had at 21 — with no signs of slowing down. Take that, AARP!