Guitar Player has put Carlos Santana on its cover several times, and he is always extremely gracious with his time. He even sends CD-Rs of music that inspires him, just to keep a dialog going in between magazine business. So the GP staff has never thought of Santana solely as a guitar legend, but also as a “universal thinker” who absorbs culture, family, business, and wonderment. He’s an essential link to San Francisco’s Summer of Love, Bill Graham, and just about every musician you can think of. So it’s a treat that Santana’s autobiography, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light [Little, Brown], fills in the personal history surrounding the musical journey we all know.
The Universal Tone is not a resource for gearheads. (The fact that Santana is not shown with a guitar in the book’s cover photo should be a tip off.) Instead, Santana shares his incredible experiences from the ’60s up to his current hit show in Las Vegas. There’s Santana telling Stevie Ray Vaughan to “put the guns back in the holster” upon first meeting him in 1983, getting a coveted blank page from Bill Graham’s “critique clipboard” the last time he saw the promoter alive, being chided by Buddy Guy (“I hope you didn’t make the same mistake Clapton did—coming to see me without a guitar!”), describing Miles Davis as a “divine rascal,” and making a deal with his mom that meant getting his first guitar also required playing violin at Sunday church services. Every page gave me something that thrilled me, educated me, or inspired me. This book is a gift to all musicians, and I plan to keep it handy for a long time. Thanks, Carlos!