Carlos Santana was just 22 years old when he and his band, Santana, performed the song “Soul Sacrifice,” that electrified 500,000 people at Woodstock—that three-day phenomenon in 1969 that changed Rock and Roll forever.
Forty-two years later, Carlos the eternal, cosmic melody man, is still using his magical gift to touch us in our deepest, most sensual, primal, spiritual place of Divine Love. His music courses through our veins and electrifies every cell in our body.
Here is video from Woodstock with 22-year-old Carlos Santana playing “Soul Sacrifice.”
People cry, laugh, dance at my concerts. If they climaxed spiritually, I did my job.”– Carlos Santana
This clip shows Carlos with Rob Thomas, from Matchbox Twenty fame, who composed and sang vocals on the mega-hit “Smooth,” which was at the top of the hcarts for ten consecutive weeks. The song earned them three Grammys in 1999, when it was released on Carlos’s album Supernatural.
Every time I hear this song, I have to get up and dance.”– Marsala Rypka
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Carlos on four occasions. Each time, he was in a very different place emotionally.
The first time was in July 2006, when I did a phone interview with him and his first wife Deborah, who had written a memoir, Space Between the Stars – My Journey to an Open Heart. I loved the book, which is a real, raw and unvarnished account of her life with and without her famous husband.
When I asked Carlos how he felt about Deborah revealing the good and bad parts of their lives together he said, “I was there when all three of our children were born, and I’m sensitive to the dimension of both pain and joy. I celebrate her honesty. I’ve learned to be patient with myself because of her.
“A lot of things that happened in my life had to do with how I was introduced to sex. It wasn’t nice, it was brutal. When Deborah learned how I developed from a child to manhood growing up in Tijuana, she thought it important for me to seek therapy, because I was subconsciously angry about my loss of innocence.
“Sometimes you have to forget about being bashful or uncomfortable and bring something into the light. Deborah’s book has a lot of light. Women write to her and say, ‘I have the courage now to voice my thoughts and opinions and not be left in the shadows.’ If it’s empowering for them, imagine what it’s like for me. I love when I am able to make her happy, but I’ve learned that she is responsible for her own happiness as we all are.”
A Dark Time
The second time I spoke with Carlos was in April 2010, when I met with him at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas where he was performing. As soon as I sat down next to him in the dimly lit nightclub called “The Joint,” I sensed that beneath his polite persona, he was in a very somber mood.
I knew Deborah had filed for divorce in October 2007, and I wasn’t going to make Carlos uncomfortable by bringing up her name.
When I asked him what three people had most influenced his life, he said:
“My mother, who put my four sisters, my brother and me in a car and said, ‘Nos vamos,’ which means we’re leaving. She took us from the little town of Autlán de Navarro between Puerta Vallarta and Guadalajara, to Tijuana. She did the same thing when we left Tijuana and went to San Francisco to join my dad, who we hadn’t seen in a year when he went looking for work. We only had enough money for one way, and no guarantee we’d find him.”
Career-wise Carlos talked about the influence of musician Miles Davis, record producer Clive Davis, and music promoter Bill Graham, who was instrumental in bringing Santana to Woodstock.
Then Carlos mentioned Deborah.
“For 34 years we were each other’s teacher, student, and best friend. We were sent to each other by God. We created three incredible children, who are now our teachers. I don’t know where Deborah is in her own journey. I trust she’s on the road to self-discovery, and her own sense of self-worth away from me.
“Deborah exudes a certain kind of grace and royalty. Not like Queen Elizabeth in that it was given to her. Some people can be dirt poor, yet they carry themselves like Duke Ellington or Nat King Cole. It’s not about the amount of money you have. It’s about your sense of self that allows you to carry yourself royally. I can look at a woman and tell if she is deeply invested in her illusions rather than her own life.”
Raw emotion hung in the air, and I sensed the sadness Carlos was feeling. Sometimes I would ask him a question and he’d close his eyes and speak as if he was channeling the answer from another realm.
“What is your most treasured material possession,” I gently inquired.
“Nothing,” he said. “If I don’t see it, I don’t miss it, including my guitar. That is especially true since my divorce. My mom told me as a child that everything belongs to God, and whenever he wants something, open your hand and let him have it. So intuitively I don’t have Velcro attached to anything physical, psychological, or emotional. I am free of all that I am.”
LIFE LESSON: When Carlos said, “I am free of all that I am,” I think he means free from the ego that tells us we’re not good enough, free from being caught up in our image, free from the trappings of fame, the expectations of others, the phony façade we hide behind. Peace comes when we look at the gifts our trials and tribulations lay at our feet that give us a greater awareness and deeper appreciation.
The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.”– Carlos Santana
I asked Carlos what made him angry.
“My own fears. I used to be a very intense, compulsive person. I’m way less now. Someone asked me once, ‘What are you most afraid of?’ I said, ‘Disappointing God,’ until I realized I couldn’t disappoint God because he doesn’t see my faults. They’re only issues for my ego, which thinks it’s separate from God. Now that I understand that, I’m like a snake shedding its skin. What I disliked most about myself—waking up thinking the world was out to screw me because I was molested, or that I wasn’t worthy of all his incredible attention—has left me.
“I was always angry because my ego convinced me I was useless, hopeless and worthless. I was playing hide and seek with myself. I couldn’t feel the joy when Supernatural won nine Grammys. I couldn’t feel the delight of walking up to the podium and receiving an award from Bob Dylan because I was at war and in conflict with myself. That guy is gone. Now I can say God is gracious, people are generous, and I’m grateful. I’m learning to bless my contradictions and fears and transform them.”
If there’s no breaking then there’s no healing, and if there’s no healing then there’s no learning.”– One Tree Hill
I was happy to learn that Carlos found love again. On July 9, 2010, two months into the Universal Tone Tour, Carlos proposed to drummer Cindy Blackman, right after her virtuoso drum solo on the Santana hit “Corazon Espinado.”
“People asked if I was afraid she’d say no,” Carlos recounts, “but I felt confident it was okay to announce to the world that two lights were bending to each other. It was as natural as my next breath. We were swimming in each other’s light.”
When we were planning the June 2011 “Bridal” issue of Luxury Las Vegas magazine, I suggested to my editor that Carlos and Cindy’s love story would be the perfect article.
I put out the request and Carlos said yes. I was looking forward to seeing him again and meeting his new bride.
When I pulled up in front of their beautiful home in Las Vegas, Carlos answered the door. As I imagined, the vibe was completely different. He was beaming from ear to ear. We chatted for a few minutes before Cindy joined us, looking stunning in a leather jacket and a mini-skirt that showed off her legs that went on forever. She exudes warmth and friendliness, and I liked her immediately.
As we sat on the couch together looking out the huge glass windows to the mountains that formed a spectacular backdrop, they took turns telling the story of how they met.
“Santana had a corporate gig in Florida and my regular drummer wasn’t available, so I had to find a substitute drummer,” Carlos explained. “And a voice in my head said, Don’t call the usual people, call Cindy. I said, ‘Cindy?’
Yeah, go to your iPad and look up Cindy Blackman and check her out. She’s the same lady you saw in Germany in 2002 that played drums with Lenny Kravitz.
“That concert was years ago. I only stuck around for two songs, so I didn’t really know how Cindy played. After downloading some of her CDs, I realized she had a high standard of musical excellence, so I invited her to come to Las Vegas.”
You can read all the details in the full-length, original article “Love Divinely Orchestrated,” but the short version is that from the moment Carlos and Cindy met they felt some serious chemistry.
I knew Carlos had been in a dark place the last time I interviewed him, but I didn’t know how dark until he said, “During my four years of separation and divorce when all options were available to me, most guys would have gone to Brazil, gotten drunk, and acted crazy. But I went the other way. A lot of people invited me to indulge in things they thought would be good for me, but I needed that like a hole in my head. That was like poison for where I was at.
“I was suffering from a deep depression like Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway and Marvin Gaye did. I needed to crystalize my existence and go to the next level of consciousness. I needed to trust and surrender to my inner voice that said, Let go of everything that you love. Release it to me now because I have something that is very heavy to give you, and you’ll need both hands to hold it.
“I was like, ‘Yeah but,” and the voice said, There is no yeah but. You are ten seconds from taking your own life. Isn’t it enough that I am sitting here next to you? I went from feeling like my heart had been opened and hot coals had been put inside, to crying my eyes out that the Supreme Holy Spirit was talking to me.”
Carlos called (spiritual adviser) Marianne Williamson and told her he was going through the darkest night of his life. He asked if she could recommend someone in the Bay area, who could assist him in his transformation, which she did, and Carlos started studying The Course of Miracles.
He learned that “There is perfection in imperfection. People can do 99% of everything perfect, yet they torture themselves about the 1% they screwed up.
“Bob Marley said people need to emancipate themselves from mental slavery, believing they are wretched.” Everything happens for the best when you get out of your own way. People get stuck in their stories. End your story and begin your life. God created a circle of love so vast that no one can stand outside of it. God created the world round so everyone can have center stage. Everyone is significant and meaningful. No one is a failure or a sinner.”
By the time Carlos and Cindy met, they had both done a lot of inner work and were ready for each other.
“I was attracted to her clarity and certainty,” Carlos said. “I felt I could be at ease living with her and it wouldn’t be uncomfortable like, ‘Okay, it’s time to call you a cab.’ When we hugged in the kitchen it felt unconditional. I knew right then that I could share my life with her forever.”
Cindy (51) told me she had been in a few long-term relationships, but she’d never been married. “One of my Kabbalah instructors said, ‘Cindy, you only have to ask one question. Is he spiritual? I asked that question about Carlos, (63) and the answer was absolutely yes.’”
Rather than trying to be perfect, it’s about finding someone who sees our imperfections and loves us anyway.
Carlos said, “Cindy was sent to me to help me clean out my inner closet. She is that person who helps me praise God every day, in every way with grace, honor, and sensuality.”
The wedding took place on December 19, 2010, in Maui, where Carlos has a home. In this video the joy Carlos feels is evident on his face. He is a different, happier man than the one I spoke to before.
He shared this very touching story. “One of the highlights of the wedding was when I said to my son, Salvador, “Since mom and I have gone our different ways, I want to ask if there is anything you want to get off your chest before Cindy and I get married tomorrow?
“Salvador took a deep breath and said, ‘Actually there is.’
Okay, fasten your seat belts, I thought. Here it comes. Instead Salvador suggested something that became a special part of the ceremony.
He said, ‘Tomorrow I request that you ask the minister to fill a big wooden bowl with rainwater (it had been raining). Then I’d like for you to wash Cindy’s hands and for her to wash yours and absolve each other from all things past and start anew.’ We loved that because we want to experience each thing as if it is for the first time for both of us.”
LIFE LESSON: Ceremony is symbolic. The washing of their hands was a great way for Carlos and Cindy to absolve themselves of the past and start fresh.
There are different ways to create symbolism. We can make a list of things we want to forgive ourselves and others for and then burn the paper. We can write down our dreams and bury the paper in place we consider sacred. We can use the ritual of water. It’s all about forgiveness. About starting over, creating a new beginning, wiping the slate clean.
My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet.”– Mahatma Gandhi
It was a beautiful wedding. About 200 guests flew in to share the day with the special couple. Carlos’ daughters, Angelica and Stella were two of Cindy’s seven bridesmaids and his son, Salvador, was the best man along with six groomsmen. When Carlos asked Cindy who she wanted to play at the wedding she said, Wayne (Shorter) and Herbie (Hancock).
“There was genius in everyone in the room,” Carlos said, “but Wayne and Herbie are two people who really represent genius on the planet.”
The couple wrote their own vows. Cindy said, “One of our favorite words is pristine. I love being pristine in all facets of my life, and I want to be pristine with my marriage. That was thematic in what I said.”
They couple cut the cake and danced to Ron Isley’s “The Look of Love.”
After the toasts were given, the guests were invited to experience a moment of silence so that Cindy and Carlos could drink in all the love their guests were offering them with their eyes.
“God’s light was so prevalent, the silence got really loud,” Carlos said.
At the end of the wedding, another beautiful gesture took place when the couple each opened a large, white, wicker basket and released several doves symbolizing peace and love.
It was a perfect ending to a perfect day and the beginning of a beautiful life together. Both Carlos and Cindy have a great appreciation for what they share because of what they each went through to get where they are. Love lost and found—Divinely orchestrated. A blessing that they both cherish.
“I didn’t expect to find my glorious partner and I was okay with that. I wanted to enjoy the gifts I did have. Fortunately God had this planned,” said Cindy.
Carlos said, “We are the culmination of a lot of people’s prayers.”
As I watched the happy couple sitting together on the couch they both looked so radiant, their love so overflowing that it spilled out onto me.
We are, each of us angels with only one wing and we can only fly by embracing one another.”
– Luciano de Crescenzo
Besides their love for each other, Carlos and Cindy share a love for mankind and the planet. The last thing Carlos said before we finished the interview was, “Humanity loves to worship and has a total preoccupation with the god of economy, which is the love for power that is more important than life, people, or the planet.
“We kill, take peoples’ land and everything they have, and justify it in the name of a superior god, which is the economy.
“In the 1967 movie, 2001 A Space Odyssey, there was a scene where two tribes of apes were fighting over a water hole that was really a mud hole. Instead of joining together to make the water clean for everyone, they killed one another over mud. We are still fighting over mud, which is now global oil.
“The symptoms of being separate from the Supreme Being are guilt, shame, judgment, condemnation, and fear. I know without a doubt that beauty, elegance, excellence, grace and dignity are the only passports towards global healing. Free water, education, food, and electricity for every human on the planet will be the result of living with these spiritual principles. I also want women to be equal in everything—in bed, the office, the oval office. That is my ultimate goal.”
Carlos and Cindy demonstrated a little gesture that they do with each other, where they blow a tiny puff of air out through their mouths. They explained that it symbolizes keeping the feather from touching the ground; keeping things light and full of love and happiness, while keeping toxic thoughts like fear, delusion, and entitlement away.
Our destiny changes with our thought; we shall become what we wish to become, do what we wish to do, when our habitual thought corresponds with our desire.”
– Orison Swett Marden
I feel fortunate that I connected with Carlos at such different junctures in his life. We first talked near the end of one very important chapter in his life; then we talked at the darkest point in his life when he couldn’t see the light; and again when he was bathed in the glow of a brilliant new love.
I hope anyone who is hoping to find that special someone, will remember Carlos Santana and let him serve as a reminder that out of the darkest moments, out of the depth of despair, love will find you.
Carlos Santana sang about his “Black Magic Woman,” and her name is Cindy Blackman. How perfect is that!
Hallow the body as a temple to comeliness and sanctify the heart as a sacrifice to love; love recompenses the adorers.”
– Khalil Gibran