Interview: Carlos Santana Page 2


And that’s what I concentrated on in each one of these songs. I asked the producers to step aside and let me set the tone for the groove. I’ll give you an example: “Fortunate Son.” [It’s one of the two bonus tracks on the Deluxe Edition of Guitar Heaven] I asked my drummer, Dennis Chambers, who’s an incredible musician, “Would you be so gracious to go check out the melodic sounds of the drums on Smokey Robinson’s “Going to a Go-Go”? [Robinson, then singing with the Miracles, saw “Go-Go” go to No. 11 on January 22, 1966; the song stayed in the Top 40 for 6 weeks.] It goes like this [Carlos scats out the groove, snaps his fingers, and sings, “Going to a go-go.”] That’s already melodic! “Play that — don’t change it, don’t deviate from the groove. It’s like the curvature of a woman.”

I like the sound of that. There’s some kind of vibe a listener has to pick up on. In your case, it’s the commitment to the material and your spirituality, and it comes through your fingers. And it has to be real. You can’t fake that.
No. Joe Cocker and I were talking about this. He’s incapable of faking anything. I mean, he did “Little Wing,” and he told me, “You know, Carlos, when I sang the lyric ‘butterflies and zebras,’ I went, ‘Uh-oh, here we go again!’ ” He was talking about taking some acid, being a hippie, and going to that place.

I know what he meant. Everything I learned from the “consciousness revolution” — all that stuff that peaked at Woodstock — I knew that it was going to keep coming, and I had to have the trust that I could find a way through all those layers and vortexes of psychedelic colors, and the layers of madness. I had to trust that there was something that would make sense to me.

And something did. I knew I was always going to have a pick in my hand, that triangular pick — and that pick said to me, “This is who you are and what you do. Everything centers on this pick. It’s a plectrum, and you’re a guitar player.” Some people get lost, and they never come back when they go on a trip like that. I always found a pick in my hand that reminded me, “This is who you are: Your motives, your intentions, your purpose, they’re all around this pick right here.”