Watch Carlos Santana’s Infamous Acid-Fueled Woodstock Performance

Mexican-born American musician Carlos Santana (right) and American bassist David Brown perform with the other members of Santana at 'Woodstock,' a large rock and roll music concert, Bethel, New York, August 16, 1969.
(Image credit: Tucker Ransom/Getty Images)

Happy birthday to Carlos Santana – the guitar legend who continues to blow the minds of fans well over half a century after he blew the minds of some 400,000 Woodstock festival goers back in the Summer of ’69. 

But it wasn’t just the fans’ minds that were blown on that fateful August afternoon. 

The “ocean of hair and teeth and arms” that was Woodstock was already looking pretty trippy to Carlos Santana when he touched down in the helicopter. And though he now had two feet on the ground, the following events were anything but down-to-earth.

A mug shot of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia (1942 - 1995), following his arrest in New Orleans, 31st January 1970

Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia just can't stop smiling (Image credit: Kypros/Getty Images)

Following a ‘brief exchange’ with Jerry Garcia, Carlos walked away full of the festival spirit and feeling safe in the knowledge that he had several hours to kill before the acid wore off. After all, it was to be the biggest performance of his career.

Any sense of serenity was short-lived, however, as he was soon informed, “If you don’t play now, you’re not going to play at all. You need to go on right now.” Alas, peaking on his trip, he made his way to the stage in trepidation, praying only to stay in tune and in time.

“Everything became another dimension,” he recalls.

Carlos Santana and bassist David Brown performing at the Woodstock festival in 1969

Carlos Santana and bassist David Brown performing at the Woodstock festival in 1969 (Image credit: Victor Englebert/Photo Researchers History/Getty Images)

In heroic fashion, Carlos went far beyond merely holding it together – even though the neck of his early ‘60s Gibson SG Special “felt like a snake” in his hands. But tame that 'snake' he did! 

While Carlos himself has often been quoted as finding this uncomfortable viewing (understandable) his masterful performance ultimately went down in history as one of Woodstock's most iconic moments.

Woodstock movie art

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Get the full Woodstock movie here.

Rod Brakes

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as GuitaristTotal Guitar, Guitar WorldGuitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.