Santana at Woodstock

Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice” on Saturday afternoon August 16, 1969

Originally called The Santana Blues Band, Santana was originally a band whose material consisted primarily of extended “jams” rather than songs. In fact, it wasn’t until their second album, Abraxas that, at the suggestion of pianist Alberto Gianquinto, they began to shift their focus from percussion jams to tighter song structures. One of their initial jams eventually turned into a song called “Soul Sacrifice.”

Santana were pretty much unknown when they took the stage for a 45-minute set on Saturday afternoon. Their debut album was still a week or so from release. They were the only act to play without a record and it was unparalleled. Santana went from Woodstock to being in global demand almost overnight. By the time they left, they were one of the festival’s breakout acts. Most of the songs they played were from their self-titled LP, including the instrumental “Soul Sacrifice,” a percussion-fueled dynamo by drummer Michael Shrive. The song is considered as one of the greatest performaces at Woodstock.

Santana at Woodstock

Later in an interview on the King Biscuit Flour Hour, Santana said he was high on psychedelics when he went on stage. He didn’t remember if it was Acid or Mescaline that he had dropped on the Saturday afternoon. This seemed OK to him at the time because his band was scheduled to go on later in the evening. However, the management changed the time on him and at 2:00 pm on Saturday afternoon, it was either go on or forget it. So they went on when Santana was high on psychedelics. The reason he looks a little harrassed in the video is that he later said that his guitar kept turning into a snake and he battled to change it back into a guitar so he could keep on playing.

Santana’s First Album

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