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Carlos Santana Interview


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source: Mail on Sunday

The secrets of my success: Carlos Santana

By Jeremy Taylor

Last updated at 10:01 PM on 11th September 2010

article-1310841-0B06A668000005DC-62_306x362.jpg 'Mick Jagger and Keith Richards deserve an award for being resilient. It's not easy being a rock'n'roll star,' said Carlos Santana

Born in Mexico in 1947, guitarist Carlos Santana became famous in the late Sixties after his band Santana gave a memorable performance at the Woodstock festival. His melodic style combines blues, Latin, jazz and rock and has won him a worldwide following. In 1999 his flagging career was revived by the release of the album Supernatural, which sold over 27 million copies and won nine Grammy Awards. In July this year he proposed to drummer Cindy Blackman on stage, and they plan to marry in December.

Keep your options open.

I started off playing the violin when I was five, but switched to the guitar when I was eight. My father was a mariachi violinist, a traditional Mexican musician, so he preferred me to play the violin - until he saw me play the guitar. He soon realised I was right. I was able to achieve great sounds that I couldn't manage on his instrument. My heroes at the time were BB King and Ritchie Valens.

Money and fame are bad reasons to make music.

Wealth and popularity aren't the things that drive me. They weren't when I was young and they still aren't now. All I ever wanted to do was make a pretty note with my fingers. I was blessed because I didn't have any other distractions along the way - I simply inherited a great love of music from my father. He died in 1997 but was extremely proud of my achievements.

Play music that appeals to the widest audience.

I'm a planetary citizen, like Bob Marley was. That means I am really lucky because everybody likes me. I mean that in a good way, because I can go anywhere in the world - Pakistan, London or Brazil - and people want to shake my hand. I don't have any allegiance to Mexico, the U.S. or any flag. When I play music, be it with Eric Clapton, BB King or the late Miles Davis, national barriers don't get in the way.

The more mentors you have the better.

I've had many along the way. Bill Graham was one of the first. He was a great fan of the band and a legendary promoter. He helped persuade the organisers of Woodstock to put us on in 1969 before Santana's first album was even released. Miles Davis also used to call my house many times late at night, as did BB King and Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac. I've had many, many teachers over the years, and they all went out of their way to encourage me.

article-1310841-0025E9C800000258-701_306x430.jpg 'It's never too late for a comeback, said Carlos, above with his nine Grammy Awards in 2000

Everybody needs a lucky break.

Woodstock was a humongous, gigantic door to walk through. Bill Graham trained us for that gig with two weeks of concerts, playing to bigger and bigger audiences. By the time we stood in front of 500,000 people at the festival, we were ready. It was scary, especially because I was a little bit out of it. What I remember is the neck of my guitar felt like an electric snake - it wouldn't keep still. I couldn't feel the people looking at me because I was playing my heart out.

Make friends and influence people.

Woodstock was legendary in the history of rock'n'roll. We played on the Saturday, but the three-day line-up included Joan Baez, the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane - everybody! I realised we'd made an impact when I was hanging out some time later with Hendrix's girlfriend, Devon Wilson. She took me to see the film Woodstock and told me Jimi was really impressed with us. She said we'd blown his mind with our playing.

Don't let success go to your head.

Things happened too quickly for us after that, so quick that it destroyed my band. People were more concerned with drugs, cars and ladies. Too much, too soon can happen to all bands, even the Beatles. Santana have had so many members over the years I've lost count. People come and go, but I've always been here.

Only the tough survive in rock'n'roll.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards deserve an award for being resilient. It's not easy being a rock'n'roll star. I kept my mind together by having a spiritual side. I don't read reviews about me. I know when I'm bad and I know when I'm pretty good. I tell my band to keep it simple. I tell them to make the ugliest face so they can make the prettiest note. I don't want my band to play like a curtain behind me - I want them to attack from the first song.

Let the great guitarists inspire you.

There are still amazing musicians out there who I admire. People like Paco de Lucía, John McLaughlin, Buddy Guy and the brilliant BB King. To me, BB King is the chairman of the board.

The street was my university.

My family moved from Mexico to the U.S. when I was a kid and finally settled in San Francisco. When I left school in 1965, I washed dishes to help my parents with the rent. When my younger brother was old enough, he started cleaning dishes and I moved out to sleep in the streets for a while. In the evening I would watch great performers like Peter Green, Otis Rush and Cream.

The best work is a hobby, not a job.

To me, what I do isn't a job; it's a way of life. Eric Clapton and I are blessed, because we try to make sincere, beautiful notes and then people pay us. What a concept!

It's never too late for a comeback.

I was trying to get out of a recording contract in the Nineties and eventually signed up with producer Clive Davis. We came up with the concept for Supernatural and Clive thought it would go double-platinum. I thought it would be powerful, but it eventually went platinum 15 times over. I was really surprised when I went to the Grammys in 2000 and Bob Dylan gave me an award. I ended up going on stage eight more times, like a dog retrieving a Frisbee. The best is still to come, though.

Santana's new album 'Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time' is released on September 20.

Their UK tour begins at London's O2 Arena on October 1

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1310841/Carlos-Santana-The-secrets-success.html#ixzz0zbfmA6zT

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I've always liked Carlos, he seems like a really positive person (and a great musician, goes without saying). He recently got engaged to an amazing drummer, Cindy Blackman, best known for her work with Lenny Kravitz.

Yes, Fireopal, he's certainly lasted the test of time. I also respect him for the amount of charity work which he has done over the years.

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