Carlos Santana Had a ‘Big Head’ After Woodstock Until It Became Too ‘Draining’ 

Carlos Santana was the frontman for one of the biggest rock bands of the ’70s: Santana. The band made him a star, from selling millions of records to touring all over the world. Recently, Santana revealed the event that gave him a “big head.”

How Santana got to perform at Woodstock

Santana and his band started playing around San Francisco in the late ’60s, along with groups like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. The band ended up getting signed to Columbia Records, and put their debut album, Santana, out in 1969. 

The growing fame caught the attention of legendary rock music promoter Bill Graham, and he arranged for Santana to perform at the now-iconic Woodstock Music and Art Festival in 1969. 

“Bill Graham, was my first archangel,” Santana told the New York Times. “I have certain people who show up at the allocated, correct time and place, and open big doors for me. Bill invited us to his house in Mill Valley. We were still living in the Mission [District] in San Francisco.”

“He said, ‘There’s going to be a concert that’s going to change your whole life. I need for you guys to really hear me: After this concert, people are going to start looking at you the way they look at the Doors and Jimi Hendrix.

You guys will get in trouble because your heads are going to get so big, you’re going to need a shoehorn to go in a room,’” the rocker recalled. “We rolled our eyes and we go, ‘Bill, we’re from the Mission. We don’t buy into that rock star thing.’”

Did Woodstock give Carlos Santana a ‘big head’?

Rock musicians David Brown and Carlos Santana of Santana perform onstage during the Woodstock music festival in 1969
Santana’s David Brown (L) and Carlos Santana onstage at Woodstock in 1969 | Victor Englebert/Photo Researchers History/Getty Images

The band impressed the Woodstock audience with their performance. Their inclusion in the Woodstock concert film and soundtrack launched the group to worldwide success. So, was Graham’s prediction for the band accurate?

“Oh, totally,” Santana laughed. “In my case, I fell out soon enough to embrace spiritual discipline. I moved to Queens, New York, and cut my hair. I wasn’t doing drugs, wasn’t drinking, changed my diet. For 10 years. I was devoted to a certain code of conduct that serves me well now. I got more energy than when I was 17.”

Why Carlos Santana changed his ‘draining’ rock star lifestyle

Talking about his “big head” phase, the guitarist said:

“You buy expensive, flashy cars, and you waste a lot of time in the mirror changing clothes. It becomes like what happened to Prince and Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. You create this mask — it’s called persona, like Batman and Bruce Wayne — that is draining to maintain. That’s why I made a change to drop that and become a person rather than a personality.”

Santana got over his rockstar persona phase but has continued to make music with Santana, as well as on his own. Fans of the rock star are glad he managed to get over having a “big head,” and that he’s still making music today! 

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