Credit Illustration by Élise Rigollet; Photograph by Hulton Archive/Getty Images
“Every Woodstock musician I’ve talked to, when asked what performances they liked, immediately cites Santana as an obvious mega-highlight,” said Andy Zax, the co-producer of “Woodstock — Back to the Garden: The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive,” a mammoth 38-CD boxed set released on Aug. 2.
Santana, a psychedelic jam band from San Francisco that incorporated Latin and African polyrhythms into blues-rock, was one of the least-known acts at Woodstock. It was added to the festival mainly because the manager Bill Graham, also the most powerful concert promoter in the country, forced them onto the bill.
When Santana went on at 2 p.m. on Saturday, the crowd was taken aback by the bandleader Carlos Santana’s scything, nimble guitarplaying, and a rhythm section that included two percussion players, at the time uncommon in rock bands.
Carlos Santana called from his office in San Rafael, Calif., to discuss which two bands played a better set than Santana, why Woodstock was a glorious social experiment, and how a change in schedule led to him hallucinating while onstage. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.