Carlos Santana’s journey to Jesus Christ was far from smooth
A younger bunch of Carlos Santana fans will recall his massive 1999 hit, Smooth, from his Supernatural album, or his latest work, Guitar Heaven. But those who have grown up with the music legend will always have Evil Ways, Oye Como Va, and Black Magic Woman running in the back of their heads.
Looking back, Santana has done well musically, including 10 Grammy awards, Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and being tagged number 15 out of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. But Santana says what really got his life together was having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
It was a long voyage to home. He was traumatized when his father left his family, was sexually molested by the father of a friend when he was 10 years old, was exploited by Indian guru Sri Chinmoy when he was a young married musician, and went through a tremendous life as a rock star, with the drugs and women that came with it.
All that, plus the breakup of a 34-year marriage and seven – yes, seven suicide attempts, helped him to realize that “the only thing that we need to do is first accept that the only reality is God’s love. Everything else is an illusion,” The Plain Truth magazine reported.
Part of his journey involved going through the stranglehold that his past held over him, acknowledging it and learning to forgive; and then accepting the grace of healing. He told The Plain Truth, “You have to go through the darkest night of the soul to get to the brightest light of day.”
The son of a mariachi violinist, Santana’s father was also his music mentor. Even after the separation of his parents, when Santana began to earn money as a street musician to help pay the bills of his mother, it was his dad who bought him his first electric guitar.
That electric guitar, a gift for his 15th birthday, helped him earn as a club musician, in this way contributing to the bills that can be accumulated by a single mother of six children.
Ironically, some of what many should consider the high points in one’s career were, for him, simply spaced out events. Take the historic 1969 Woodstock concert, where he emerged as the festival’s surprise star.
Of the event, he simply recalls that he was totally addled with drugs. He told The Plain Truth that he was dealing with frightening hallucinations at the time, and instinctively praying, “God, please help me. I’ll never do this again.”
Of his time with Indian Guru Sri Chinmoy, whom he and former wife Deborah followed from 1972-1981, he recalls feeling they had to “prove” they were devoted, all the time. In a Rolling Stone interview, Deborah recalled contests Chinmoy would devise, such as seeing who could go with the least amount of sleep, and who would run a 47-mile race for him.
When Santana left Chinmoy, the guru did what most cult leaders do—tried to destroy the musician. Chinmoy told his followers to cut ties with Santana but in the end, the guru gained a notorious reputation for using his women followers for sex, and for unethically making his followers generate funds for himself.
Santana and Deborah were baptized as Christians in 1994, but the growth in faith was slow and gradual, with, sometimes, steps backwards including infidelity which ended up ruining his 34-year marriage.
Part of the reason why he was able to revisit the traumatic incidents of his past was because he felt that God was helping him to go through it and lending strength through his grace.
He learned to forgive the man who molested him and was surprised to find out that this could be a personally freeing experience. He realized, through God’s grace, that “God made me worth something,” The Plain Truth reported.
He has said in the past that by the year 2015 he might completely retire from music and become a minister. But he adds that no one really knows if this will ever truly happen, except God.
He adds that he knows that his story is not yet over. He told The Plain Truth, “I am a child of God, and God is not done with me.”