The Birth of the Cool

Santana, Tanglewood, August 1970.

Carlos Santana was born in Jalisco, the son of a mariachi, and grew up in that stateless borderland between Tijuana and San Francisco playing first the violin, then the guitar. There was a breadth to his musical education:

If I would go to some cat’s room, he’d be listening to Sly and Jimi Hendrix; another guy to the Stones and the Beatles. Another guy’d be listening to Tito Puente and Mongo SantamarĂ­a. Another guy’d be listening to Miles and Coltrane. To me, it was like being at a university. (source)

There’s an intoxicating moment about 3:30 into this this video of a live performance of Soul Sacrifice at Tanglewood in the summer of 1970.

He’s finished with the opening solo, and wanders off as he hands the song over to the band’s drummers and bass player (a joyous propulsion that is one of the reasons this is one of my favorite versions of one of my favorite songs).

Then he returns, a cigarette hanging from his mouth, now without his guitar, and finds a cowbell to join the rhythm section.

He had just turned 23.


  1. John – It’s Soul Sacrifice, not Soul Survivor. One of my favorites too and the highest high point in the Woodstock film. Thanks so much for the share.

    Enjoyed the drought webinar yesterday.

    Hope you are well.


  2. Ah, so good to reminisce with a fellow fan of The Carlos! To me he has always been godlike in his musical wizardry, his grace, and his charity. I last saw him last year, at the New Orleans JazzFest; he was as young and inspiring as ever. And Cindy Blackman – his amazing drummer wife — blew the crowd away with one of the most breathtaking and athletic drum solos ever heard.

    You’re lucky, John, because there is an outstanding Santana cover band in your area (saw them last year in Santa Fe) — if you’ve not seen them, check them out!

  3. John: Thanks for the story and link. Less than a month earlier at the same Tanglewood, a band music critical history has looked far, far less favorably upon than Santana appeared, yet the guitar player ain’t band, imho.


    P.S.: Mike Shrieve playing that Beginner Ludwig drum set amid all that only makes it the whole Santana gig even more amazing (not to mention the cig hanging from cowbell playing Carlos’ mouth).

  4. That is so wonderful, Scot!

    Seventh grade at Pioneer Junior High School in Upland, California, I switched from the clarinet to the tenor saxophone so I could play in “stage band”. So, 1971? Tenor is a very forgiving instrument, easier to get an OK sound than many. Instruments our parents approved of were being allowed in rock bands! Easy rebellion is always the easiest.

    We played that song, and we (well, some of us, anyway) grew our hair like that – long, straight, stringy – and Chicago was our Favorite Band. I won’t give up on Chicago Transit Authority being one of the great albums, but even then I could see the trouble emerging by the time the second album appeared. We also played “Colour My World” in “stage band”, and I can see in retrospect that we were on the slippery slope that marked the 1970s’ Great Divergence.

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