• From Woodstock to the Waldorf, I’ve been in Carlos’ fan club
• His Hall of Fame Induction
• Tea time in the lobby
By the time I got to Woodstock in August of 1969, all I knew about Santana was a nugget picked up in some alternative music paper: the band was managed by San Francisco impresario Bill Graham. The Santana Blues Band is how they were billed in advance festival publicity. Few of the half-a-million friends around me that Saturday afternoon in the Catskills had heard anything about this group.
After Carlos, Greg Rollie, Michael Shrieve, et al had scorched the earth around Bethel Woods with high-energy rave-ups like Jingo and Soul Sacrifice, the reverberations were felt around the whole rock world.
Everyone went home, washed off the caked mud and bought the just-released album, titled simply Santana. A few months later, Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock doc seared in celluloid their frenetic, sweat-soaked performance. Santana was very quickly a household word.
Twenty-nine years later, Carlos was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And in the posh setting of the lobby of New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, CNN’s Showbiz Today was broadcasting live. Carlos was an honored guest:
I’ve interviewed Carlos more than once and I usually came away with the feeling I had been in the company of someone very centered, very much in tune with, well, rhythms of the universe that maybe not everyone else can discern. His spirituality populates his speech. For every sentence you get about his music and how it’s made, you get another about where it’s from and how ethereal and mystical the journey is. Tell you the truth, I got lost sometimes. But I just write it off to me being a less highly-developed form of life than Carlos!
Here’s the piece I did on that year’s Hall inductees, including the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. Sorry about the major “tape wow” at the beginning that makes host Laurin Sydney sound like Linda Blair in The Exorcist:
Michael Jensen, who may be sort of a spirit guide for Carlos through the media universe, a.k.a. his publicist, is a good friend. In 2017, Santana released The Power of Peace, a collaboration with The Isley Brothers. (The guitars of Ernie Isley and Carlos have the power to move mountains.) Michael invited me to the release party at Electric Ladyland Studios.
It just feels good being around Carlos Santana. I’m glad I’ve been there.