By the 1990s, legendary electric guitarist Carlos Santana had to content himself resting on his band's immense laurels, which included being the last major act to emerge from the psychedelic San Francisco music scene of the '60s, and being a major hitmaker throughout the '70s.
Santana was still enjoying immense success as a touring ensemble when recording industry executive and president of Arista Records, Clive Davis, masterminded the 1999 comeback album Supernatural, pitting the guitarist against some of modern pop/rock's biggest stars. The album was the event of 2000, selling some 25 million units worldwide and receiving nine Grammy awards.
34 years earlier, guitarist Carlos Santana met keyboardist/vocalist Gregg Rollie at a jam session in San Francisco. They decided to form a blues rock band. Bringing in two percussionists and a bassist, they formed the Santana Blues Band, which made its debut in 1966 at the Fillmore. The group became a favorite of influential West Coast promoter and Fillmore owner Bill Graham and began performing there regularly to packed houses.
An appearance at Woodstock led to a deal with Columbia, and the band enjoyed great success through the mid-70s with mega-hits "Oye Como Va" and "Black Magic Woman," and seminal albums Abraxas (1970), Santana III (1971, five weeks #1) and the jazz-oriented collaboration with Buddy Miles, Live!
By the end of 1972 Rollie had left Santana over directional differences, leaving Carlos to reform the band with a more Latin-oriented sound. The live album Lotus was followed by 1973's Welcome and a 1974 Greatest Hits collection.
Several members of the group left to found Northern California supergroup Journey, and Santana went through another lineup change for the 1975 album Borboletta. In 1976, Carlos re-formed the band yet again, almost entirely changing the lineup and pursuing a more rock/R&B sound. The group continued to tour throughout the late '70s and early '80s, changing their sound to fit the times.
By the mid-'80s Santana's lineup had changed yet again. Adding former Tower of Power keyboardist Chester Thompson, the group hit rock bottom with Beyond Appearances, before rebounding with 1987's Freedom, a second collaboration with Buddy Miles.
Santana continued to tour and record into the '90s, their lineup constantly changing (except for frontman Carlos), and with the quality of their albums fluctuating wildly.
Santana staged a 20-year anniversary reunion concert in August 1986, featuring many past bandmembers. The 1987 album Freedom marked the formal inclusion of Buddy Miles as a member of Santana, but it barely made the Top 100. Carlos followed that venture with the solo album Blues For Salvador, winning his first Grammy Award in the process. In October, Columbia celebrated the 20-year anniversary of the band's signing to the label with the retrospective Viva Santana!
In 1999, Santana released Supernatural on Arista Records. After many years of dogged perserverance, Carlos Santana's ship finally sailed in. Among the Grammy awards were top honors for Record Of The Year and Album Of The Year categories, as well as Song Of The Year award for the hit "Smooth," a track featuring the vocals of Matchbox 20 frontman Rob Thomas. Supernatural stayed at the top of the Billboard chart for 12 weeks.
Santana's successful 2002 follow-up Shaman debuted at #1 and featured performances by modern pop and rock artists Dido, Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, Macy Gray and Michelle Branch.