You don’t find too many alumni of Woodstock ’69 making relevant records these days; for Carlos Santana, however, it’s just the dawn of the Age of Aquarius. After years off the pop-culture radar, Santana found his acclaimed new album, Supernatural, going platinum quickly after its release last June. To make the album, Santana brought together a truly supernatural group of celeb collaborators, including Lauryn Hill, Wyclef, Everlast, Dave Matthews, matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas, Beck/Beastie Boys producers the Dust Brothers, Eagle Eye Cherry, and Eric Clapton. EW recently caught up with Santana, finding the journeyman guitar guru as into the mystic as ever.
Why did you call the album Supernatural?
It deals with the paranormal relationship between Lauryn Hill, Eric Clapton, and myself. Most of my collaborators said, ”I knew I was going to work with you because you were in my dreams.”
Is there a concept behind the record?
I wanted the music to rearrange the molecular structure of the listener. If you listen to the CD from beginning to end, there’s a story; it’s about how today’s kids are having a bad day with depression and frustration, getting guns and shooting a lot. I’m convinced if they play this CD in shopping malls and elevators like they do Muzak, it will stop a lot of the homicide and genocide.
What if they’d played it at this year’s Woodstock?
It would have been different. There’s a difference between being high and being stupid. The first Woodstock was against the system, against Vietnam and the corrupt government. To have a Woodstock in an air force base is a contradiction right there.
How did you unite such a stellar group?
By grace. Once we connected with Lauryn Hill, it became a chain reaction. She connected me with Eric Clapton, and then one person introduced me to another. There was so much mutual admiration. When I hit the first note with Lauryn, she made this unhhhh sound. She was pregnant, and we were afraid she’d broke water. But she said, ”No, the sound you made assaulted my senses.” And nobody was ego-trippin’: If I told you how little Eric Clapton charged me, you wouldn’t believe it.
Where do you fit into today’s Latin-music explosion?
I feel very grateful to see the so-called Latin movement become so prevalent. Hopefully we can get our own sitcoms. But Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan, and Santana — people call what we do Latin, Spanish, whatever, but we’re all playing African music.
Are you surprised by Supernatural‘s success?
I keep pinching myself. Not too many people get a chance at the brass ring twice. I’m not interested in being an oldie-but-goodie. I said to the Lauryn Hills and Eric Claptons, I feel so grateful that you came to bat for me, I’ve got a squeegee ready to clean your windows.
You’re 52 — how much longer are you gonna rock?
I saw Mr. Count Basie wheeled in on a wheelchair, and he was still getting it done. And I have some seriously healthy genes. We’ll see what God wants me to do.