Carlos Santana‘s just-published memoir The Universal Tone (Nov. 4; Little, Brown and Company) may be subtitled Bringing My Story to Light, but it’s hardly light reading. Besides detailed memories of his upbringing and musical achievements, the 544-page book also dives unapologetically deep into the guitar legend’s philosophies and spirituality. Santana, 67, has learned countless life lessons, he says — including these five, in his words.
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There’s Santana, and there’s Carlos.
“I don’t want to be attached to this figure thing called Santana. I like Carlos. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the performer and the person. I want to be like Harry Belafonte or Wayne Shorter or [John] Coltrane and be a person who is nice to be around.”
Negativity? No thanks.
“I take special joy in dismantling cynical people. Cynical people are like cement — nothing grows in there. We have the capacity to make the correct choices every day, so every day can be the best day of your life, no matter what.”
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Forgetfulness has its benefits.
“I’ve learned that I need to constantly forgive myself, forget my story and live my life. I have celestial amnesia. I remember only the good stuff. The bad stuff? Not that I’m in denial; I just don’t want to be that full time. Like a dog shakes off water, I shake it off and move on.”
Let your instrument do the talking.
“John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Tito Puente, Miles [Davis] — all of these people are part of my heart. They taught me to tell stories when you take a solo, not just play a bunch of clever, cute, thought-out notes. Where are you going? What are you trying to say?”
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Change is a good thing.
“I’m ready to, like a snake, leave my skin and grow a new skin. My wife [drummer Cindy Blackman Santana] and I will take the next year and create new music. She’s going to join my band full-on and put her hands on the wheel with me to architect a new path. It’s time to commit career suicide again and go more Sun Ra, more Sonny Sharrock, and take the hamster out of the cage.”
This article first appeard in the Nov. 22 issue of Billboard.