Fifty-one years after the Santana Blues Band played its first shows, Carlos Santana never fails to surprise. He’s one of the spiritual founding fathers of the Sixties counterculture but currently lives in, of all places, Las Vegas with his wife, Santana drummer Cindy Blackman. “I’ve never had that gambling bug at all,” he says, “but everything I said I would never do is in front of me. I didn’t realize that some of the most gifted musicians, like Nat ‘King’ Cole and Sinatra, did [Vegas]. So I rearranged my position.” He records with modern pop acts and has covered AC/DC and Def Leppard – but reunited an early lineup of Santana last year and is about to release Power of Peace, his first-ever collaboration with longtime friends Ronald and Ernie Isley. Here, Santana shares life lessons from his five-decade cosmic journey – the beliefs that keep him going, how he’s trained his inner child and the times when he’ll defend himself.
What are the best and worst parts of success?
I get to meet like-minded people like Harry Belafonte and Desmond Tutu. I also got to meet Dr. J and Wilt Chamberlain. You ask Wilt, “Hey, how’s the weather up there?” He says, “Which state?”
Sometimes you also get to meet a knucklehead. If I’m out at a restaurant, I’m more than happy to take a photo with someone, but if they get a little too intense or drunk, I tell them, “I need you to honor my wife and honor me because you may have to call an ambulance for you and the police for me.” They say, “Oh, I thought you were spiritual.” I say, “I am, and I’m trying to stay that way.”
What was your favorite book as a kid, and what does it say about you?
Anthony Quinn’s autobiography The Original Sin. He had an inner child who was always putting him down. Everyone has some serious inner child that can be a demon and make you feel like crap. I learned to train that child to respect me and honor me.