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Bridges

Chapter 9: A Superstar is Born: Carlos Santana at Woodstock

[FOOTAGE/STILL: WOODSTOCK POSTER]

Graham seized an opportunity for the band, when the organizers of a Rock festival near Woodstock, New York, found themselves in trouble.

RUBINSON: Bill got very much involved because he was the only one in the country at that point who really knew how to put on a show for 100,000 people.

[STILL: BILL GRAHAM]

RUBINSON: (VO) And of course, Bill being who he was, he said, "You got to put my band on."

[STILL: BILL GRAHAM]

SANTANA: (VO) And he said to us "there is going to be a festival that's gonna' like be the festival of festivals (OC) and I want you to be in it. I know you haven't, you know, your album is not out, people don't know you from anything, but they requested my help and I told them the only way I'd help them is if they put Santana on." — "What the hell is Santana?"

[FOOTAGE: WOODSTOCK CROWDS]

The band arrived at the Woodstock festival on its second day, believing that they'd go on in twelve hours. But in the afternoon they were suddenly rushed on stage. Assuming he'd have hours to come down, Carlos had taken LSD.

[FOOTAGE: SANTANA PERFORMANCE AT WOODSTOCK]

SANTANA: (OC) The guitar neck, it felt like an electric snake that wouldn't stand still. (VO) That's why I'm making ugly faces — trying to make the snake stand still so I can like play it, you know, and inwardly I remember saying over and over, 'God, I will never do this again, EVER! If you can just keep me in time and in tune.'

[FOOTAGE: SANTANA PERFORMANCE AT WOODSTOCK]

The Santana band's performance with its innovative use of Afro-Cuban percussion was one of the hits of the festival... but it became legendary when the Woodstock movie was released.

SHRIEVE: (VO) So when the movie came out, when Woodstock actually came out, we went (OC) to go to the show, all together, with everybody else. It wasn't a special screening or anything like that. In fact we waited in line to buy our tickets and I remember the audience from the show before us, were coming out, people pointing at us. (VO) Then when we went in and we saw it, we were all blown away. I know I was completely. (OC) I didn't know whether to sink down in my seat or stand up and say, 'That's me, that's me!' you know, like five or six of me up there on the (VO) screen.

[FOOTAGE: SANTANA PERFORMANCE AT WOODSTOCK]

SANTANA: I said, 'Why did they put a camera on me that made me look like a bug?'

[FOOTAGE: SANTANA PERFORMANCE AT WOODSTOCK]

SHRIEVE: And that just broke us internationally. After that, it was all over.

[FOOTAGE: SANTANA PERFORMANCE AT WOODSTOCK]

After Woodstock, the band's Afro-Cuban-Blues hybrid became an integral part of the American soundscape.

And Latinos in the US had their first popular music superstar, Carlos Santana.

[FOOTAGE: SANTANA SOLOS AT WOODSTOCK]

From Cuba to Harlem to the stage at Woodstock, the journey of the music had only just begun.

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