We’re dipping into the Far Out vault to bring you one of Santana’s most iconic appearances, a moment when he performed ‘Soul Sacrifice’ at Woodstock in 1969.
There were many memorable moments from Woodstock. Whether it was Jimi Hendrix’s generation-defining performance or the cult pick of the festival, Sly Stone, the festival is undoubtedly burned into the minds of all who attended it and even more deeply ingrained for those who played there. Except for Carlos Santana, who can be forgiven for forgetting a few things.
The iconic guitarist has always been heralded for his otherworldly performances but on the stage, at Woodstock in 1969, those words would have been even closer to the fact. The guitarist recently admitted that he was tripping on hallucinogenics and it took hold of him while on stage—it makes this performance of ‘Soul Sacrifice’ even more colourful.
Writing in Rolling Stone, Santana said of the experience of performing at such an iconic festival: “For the band as a whole, it was great. But I was struggling to keep myself grounded because I had taken some strong psychedelics right before I went onstage.”
It wasn’t a planned experience though, the guitarist usually preferring to avoid the cerebral abyss before setting foot on stage. He explained the situation: “When we first got there, around 11 in the morning, they told us that we weren’t going on until 8 o’clock. So I said, ‘Hey, I think I’ll take some psychedelics, and by the time I’m coming down, it’ll be time to go on stage and I’ll feel fine.’ But when I was peaking around 2 o’clock, somebody said, ‘If you don’t go on right now, you’re not gonna go on.'”
What transpired is straight out of the swinging sixties counter-culture picture book. A paint-by-numbers of hypnotic rock ‘n’ roll, heavy drug use, conga drums, organs and swirling guitar solos. It saw Santana reach new heights both internally and externally as he channelled the experimental creativity of a new generation.
While musically Santana admits, “Altamont was better,” the festival at Woodstock represented so much more to those who made the trip, often hundreds of miles, to be there.
As Santana puts it, “Woodstock had more of a spiritual vibe; it was more of a spiritual celebration. Woodstock signified the coming together of all the tribes.” In that muddy field for a short while, at last, peace had arrived and the new flower children could bloom.
Performing ‘Soul Sacrifice’ in front of thousands there are few people who could claim to have experienced Woodstock more fully than Carlos Santana. If, of course, he remembers it.