Carlos Santana, one of the most renowned and celebrated guitarists in rock n’ roll history, is coming to Birmingham. The man who helped bring Latin music into the rock scene will bring his signature licks to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center Concert Hall on March 15th. It will be his first show in the Magic City since 2008 when he played at Oak Mountain Amphitheatre. This show will be part of his first tour since completing a residency at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. He will be promoting his new album Corazon, which features guest artists ranging from Gloria Estefan to Pit Bull.
The Mexican-born guitarist has had a long and storied career that began in the 1960’s. When his family moved from Mexico to San Francisco, a young Carlos became engulfed in the hippie movement and became acquainted with future rock artists at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West venue. In 1966, he was discovered when Graham asked him to fill in for an impromptu jam after a scheduled Paul Butterfield failed to show. He formed a self-titled band and quickly rose to prominence within the San Francisco scene. While they were influenced by the psychedelic blues scene that dominated the Bay Area, Santana brought in influences from world music, especially Latin and African music. This helped them stand out, and eventually got them a record deal with famous producer Clive Davis.
Santana remained a regional attraction until they played at the legendary Woodstock festival in 1969. The exposure from their set, plus the radio success of their song “Evil Ways”, helped the band’s debut album reach #4 on the US charts. They followed this with the album Abraxas in 1970. Fueled by successful singles “Oye Como Va” and “Black Magic Woman”, the album reached #1 on the charts and was certified platinum four times. While their next album, Santana III, was also successful, it was around this time that the band became beset with several problems, including drug use, financial mismanagement and creative differences. Carlos began to take more control over the direction of the band, and he brought in more jazz influences then had been there previously.
Santana’s jazz efforts were critically acclaimed, but they sold poorly compared to his earlier albums. He spent the rest of the 1970’s working, but could not find the success of his early efforts. By the 1980’s he was mostly forgotten about as a recording artist. However, he was still a draw as a live act, and his performance at Live Aid helped raise his profile among contemporary fans.
Santana enjoyed small successes during most of the late 1980’s into the 1990’s. But then in 1999, he released the insanely popular album Supernatural. The result of Clive Davis bringing in young talent to work with Santana, Supernatural featured the hit song “Smooth” which had Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas on vocals. Other artists such as Everlast, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Dave Matthews were included on the album. Supernatural won nine Grammys and re-established Santana as a top recording artist.
Santana’s fusion of blues, jazz, Latin and traditional rock has made him a very influential guitarist in his own right. Kirk Hammett of Metallica and Prince have cited him as an influence on their playing. He also helped several Latin artists find success in the American charts.
When Santana comes to the BJCC, he’ll bring the experience and majesty that comes with being a living legend.

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