100 Greatest Guitarists

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Carlos Santana
100
Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images20/100

20. Carlos Santana

Mexican-born Carlos Santana had just finished high school in San Francisco, in 1965, when the city's music scene exploded, exposing him to a wealth of revelations – electric blues, African rhythms and modern jazz; guitar mentors such as Jerry Garcia and Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green – that became key strands in the Latin-rhythm psychedelia of his namesake band. Santana's crystalline tone and clean arcing sustain make him the rare instrumentalist who can be identified in just one note. As for his bold, exploratory style, he gives partial credit to his acid intake. "You cannot take LSD and not find your voice," he claims, "because there is nowhere to hide. You're not going to sound plastic or cute." The welcoming force of Santana's sound makes him an ideal collaborator – his superstar-laden 1999 album, Supernatural, won nine Grammys – and enduring inspiration. Prince called him a bigger influence than Jimi Hendrix: "Santana played prettier."

Key Tracks: "Black Magic Woman," "Oye Como Va," "Soul Sacrifice"

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