100 Greatest Artists

90

Carlos Santana

Illustration by Marc Burckhardt

By Henry Garza of Los Lonely Boys

Carlos Santana's music is a family thing for Chicanos. It's what you listen to when you're all hanging out: Drinking some beers, listening to "Oye Como Va" and cooking some barbecue is the best thing in the world. His music hits right to the pump — right to the heart. He's a pioneer of Latin rock & roll: His music was something new, but it was intertwined with everything else that was out there at the time — Sixties rock, Latin jazz and more. We're trying to do the same thing with Los Lonely Boys — make a lot of different types of music into something our own — but he did that first. He incorporated his culture into the music, and he mixed English and Spanish in the lyrics.

Everything on a song like "Black Magic Woman" works: the keyboards, the congos, the drums, the vocals. Carlos isn't the lead singer, but he is the maestro. Of course, the best thing about all his albums is his guitar. He's one of the greatest players who ever lived. His guitar has a very distinctive sound — it's like a fingerprint. His tone just bleeds through everything. His playing is both simple and complicated — he can communicate with just one or two notes. He speaks languages through his music that people can understand in any country, any language.

Those first three albums — Santana, Abraxas, Santana III — are really special to me. You could hear his ethnicity in his music — even when he's playing like some blues cat, he still sounds like Santana. And his music always has that rhythm. It makes you want to get your girlfriend and go to a dance in your lowrider. Some people were confused after that by his Seventies music, when he became jazzier. But he was just experimenting, learning more. And then his comeback with Supernatural shows how enduring his talent is.

Santana has a really good message to send to the human spirit. He once said to us, "You want to be like emissaries of light. When you're up on that stage or when you record, you want to be a tool that light shines through to everybody."

You don't want to dwell in darkness. You want to go toward the light. And Santana is the light.

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