Twenty years ago, while digging through my father's music collection, I found an album that I still regard as one of my all-time favorites. The crying guitar notes and inspired Latin rhythms I heard that afternoon were a vast departure from the corridos and cumbias I was almost exclusively listening to at the time.
The discovery of this album was a revelation, a musical turning point that opened my ears to what has now been decades of admiration, astonishment, and hunger for more. That album was Santana's Greatest Hits (1984), which included classics such as "Evil Ways," "Samba Pa Ti" and "Black Magic Woman."
And the man behind that beautiful guitar was Carlos Santana.
That skinny Mexican kid from Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco, who took part in the psychedelic-rock era of San Francisco in the 1960s, who played at Woodstock and has since won ten Grammy Awards, is now one of music's most recognizable and respected talents.
Rolling Stone listed him as No. 20 on their list of "100 Greatest Guitarists," although I would argue he should have been in the Top 10, or even Top 5.
As I detailed in my concert review from his last show at The Woodlands, I've been fortunate to catch Santana in concert ten times, including trips to see him at Madison Square Garden, The Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
He will be celebrated here in Houston tonight at 6 p.m. at the Macy's in Memorial City Mall. Although he will not be in attendance personally, a panel of music and fashion-industry experts will celebrate Santana's influence and style.
Latin music and light refreshments will be offered, as well as a chance to win a trip for two to see "An Intimate Evening With Santana" at the House of Blues Las Vegas.
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To help you get into the mood for the event, here is my "Carlos Santana/Hispanic Heritage Month" Spotify playlist. It includes the track "Canela" from the new instrumental album Shape Shifter, Santana's 36th album overall and the first for his new label, Starfaith Records.