Carlos Santana finds Kennedy Center Honors after a lifelong search for the ‘universal tone’
By David Montgomery, Friday, December 6, 2:05 PM
LAS VEGAS — Carlos Santana frowns. The look is so uncharacteristic, because this whole afternoon his expression runs consistently from beatific to boyish and back. He riffs amiably about receiving inspiration from angels and discloses secrets about his quest for the “universal tone,” about how he learned to distill longing and joy in a single note — that pristine, piercing Santana sound that’s instantly recognizable from San Francisco to Singapore.
But now he’s standing on a hotel balcony 43 stories up, where a photographer has just asked him to climb onto a table, the better to pose against the neon skyline.
The guitar player balks: “Why do I have to be put on a pedestal?”
Santana winks. He’ll do it, on the promise that the effect will not be pedestal-like.
At 66, he has an uneasy relationship with the pedestal — the one that he at once covets, disdains and sometimes doubts he deserves. The one that people want to place him upon — except when they don’t, during those dispiriting droughts when the music-buying public all but forgets him.
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