First Three Santana Hits Were Covers. Have You Heard the Originals?

Santana, one of the most popular music groups world-wide, got their start in San Francisco in 1966 but didn’t make their first big splash until 1969 at Woodstock and with the release of their incredible eponymous debut. The next year was huge as well with Abraxas hitting the charts.

On those first two albums, the group had three hit singles (“Jingo” also made the charts briefly), and these are the three in endless rotation on classic rock station (deservedly so). From the debut came “Evil Ways,” which hit number 9 on the U.S. charts.

This song, written by Clarence “Sonny” Henry and Joe Zack, first appeared on Willie Bobo’s album Bobo Motion in 1967. Bobo was a prominent jazz percussionist incorporating Latin and soul rhythms with a lengthy résumé and discography.

Abraxas produced two smash singles. The grooving “Oye Cómo Va” made it to 13 on the American hits charts.

The tune was penned by “El Rey de los Timbales” (The King of the Timbales), Tito Puente, and first appeared on his album El Rey Bravo in 1963. An inveterate jokester, when asked how it felt to be called King, he replied, “It’s better than being called Queen!”

The song from Abraxas that charted highest, at number 4, was actually a medley of two songs: “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen.” The vocals here are so smooth.

“Black Magic Woman” was written by Peter Green and appeared first as a hit single in the U.K. and then on English Rose, the second U.S. album (third U.K.) by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Man. At the time FMac consisted of the rhythm section of John McVie and Mick Fleetwood and three stunning guitarists: Green, Jeremy Spencer, and Danny Kirwan, who had just joined the band. FMac were the most prominent British blues band at the time, and this Latin-flavored tune indicated a direction Green also explored (we’ve included “Coming Your Way” from Then Play On for comparison).

Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo had just left a stint with the outstanding Chico Hamilton Quintet and began performing as a solo artist. His 1965 debut, Gypsy ’66, contained the title tune and “Gypsy Jam.” His sophomore effort, early in 1966, was Spellbinder, and “Gypsy Queen” comes from that album.

As mentioned, here is the Fleetwood Mac tune “Coming Your Way” from Then Play On (1969). DAMN

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