Friday Night with Guitar George: Santana Edition

In recent weeks Guitar George has looked at the blues guitar from a philosophical perspective (the Feb 20 Van Morrison edition and the Dec 12 Joe Ely edition), from an historical perspective (the ongoing Delta Blues series), and we even indulged in a brief joy ride from a geographical perspective (Jan 23 Botswana, Africa edition/Jan 30 Back to Atlanta edition). So this week I decided to take a look at the guitar from a cultural perspective.

Carlos Santana was born on July 20, 1947 in West Central Mexico, where he learned to play violin at age five. When Carlos was eight, his family moved to Tijuana, where he learned to play guitar. So by the time Carlos arrived in San Francisco in the early sixties, his musical talent was richly infused with a Latino heritage. Shortly thereafter, the San Francisco area emerged as the musical and social epicenter of the American hippie subculture. Thus, it is no surprise that when Carlos formed a band around his electric guitar, they produced a sound that combined the earthy sensuality of Latino rhythm with the wide-eyed utopian experimentalism of Haight-Ashbury.

Just after recording their first album, Santana appeared at Woodstock, and gave one of the most memorable performances of the festival, which helped give the band a big jump start to a successful career. Despite naming his band after himself, Carlos Santana the guitarist never tried to upstage Santana the band. In spite of his tremendous talent, his onstage demeanor was more that of a backing musician than that of a star. As you will see in tonight’s video, filmed twenty-four years after Woodstock, the band’s live performances had become more polished, but were no less energetic than in 1969. The concert is in front of a Mexican audience, whose unabashed adoration of this music adds an extra layer of excitement to the proceedings. There are plenty of Guitar George-worthy licks from Carlos himself, but also there are exuberant performances from of all the musicians. It looks as though someone threw a party on the stage and a concert broke out. The keyboardist is especially fun to watch, and even the guy playing the wooden stick-and-cylinder brings his A-game. Whether you are listening, or watching, or both, this video is sure to delight. So grab a cerveza and some salsa and enjoy this spicy Santana burrito.

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