The opening track to the EP, “Do You Remember Me,” is almost 10 minutes and was cut in one take. Is that something you try to do in the studio, capture the moment in one take like that?

You know, one of the main things you need to create a miracle is to have willingness and allowance. If you laid these words down like an infinity sign they’d go on forever. With the music that I love from Africa and Puerto Rico and Cuba, I always wanted to do this music with [the blues people] that I love—Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy. I always wanted to say, “Yeah, we know the blues from Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters and B. B. King, but can you put the same blues in this template?” [Sings Guajila bassline.] And those chords are actually the chords for “Twist & Shout” and a gazillion songs. It all comes from Africa, anyway.

I’m very grateful that, being almost 72 years old, I have the energy of a 17 or 27-year-old. Everything is working by the grace of God. I have great health, piece of mind and joy, so let’s go onstage and hit it and burn. I just feel really, really grateful, man. That enthusiasm and energy is right here, right now. I don’t have to do anything except take a deep breath and say, “I’m thankful. I have gratitude. I have deep appreciation.” That seems to be the talisman that Magic Merlin had. When you really visit that after taking a deep breath, behold! You can produce miracles and blessings.

Switching gears a bit, let’s talk about the upcoming tour, which will be celebrating not only the 20th anniversary of Supernatural, but also the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Can you talk about how that tour came together?

For Woodstock, we secured the actual location we played, which is the amphitheatre there, because we’re trying to connect as much as possible to honoring and respecting Michael Lang. But he was having trouble with the location or the sponsors or whatever, so what I plan to do for Woodstock is to have Santana be the house band and to invite some of the original members and also Joan Baez or members from the Grateful Dead who are here still to honor that day with that particular instrumentation of spirits and souls at that frequency. I’m going to send out invitations, and those who show up will play.

I believe in honoring Abraxas and Supernatural and Woodstock in a way that is yesterday, today and tomorrow. We have a lot of music for tomorrow, as well. I think what people love about the Grateful Dead is that they say that no concert is the same. They improvise in their own ways. To have such a variety of musicians opening for them, like Miles Davis or Santana or Sun Ra, it’s pretty impressive. When you are open to that, it means that you are going to learn from them too, and they’re going to learn from you.

You can see that influence with Fleetwood Mac. Originally, they were basically playing Elmore James and B. B. King. Once they opened for the Grateful Dead, the music changed. Once they opened for Santana, the music changed. That’s who we are, that’s what we do, and it feels exciting that this year we have such an abundance of opportunities and possibilities. But all I can do is extend an invitation. I’m not about controlling or telling anyone what to do or how to do it. I am into being what I learned from Bill Graham: a great maître d’. “Here’s seven menus, I hope you’re hungry, the apron is clean, the water is pure, the flowers are fresh. Let’s just create delicious music for starving people.

There are two Woodstock celebrations going on in Upstate New York around the time you and your band will be up there. Do you have plans to be a part of either one, especially the one with Michael Lang?

We’ve been trying to do this thing for the past 10 years, especially for the past four years. However, I’m not trying to do anything other than say, “This has to be tangible—where and when.” I’m not sure he has secured the place or the funding from sponsors. But, I couldn’t wait. So I booked myself just in case. If he books it and we can still do it, I will gladly show up and be there, but at the same time I can’t wait for a “maybe.”

In the spirit of celebrating Supernatural, can you share some of your memories of that time and that album and what a landmark it was at that point in your career?

For me, this thing showed up with this sort of meditative trance, and there was a message from an archangel. He was very specific to me—he said, “They’re going to put you back on the radio like you haven’t been before and they’re going to put you in contact with all of these people, and every time you receive a reward or anything, just say, ‘Kadoish, Kadoish, Kadoish Adonai ‘Tsebayoth’—Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of Hosts.” So here comes Clive [Davis], and he said, “Do you have the willingness to bring seven songs of your own and I’ll bring seven songs and I’ll call Babyface and Lauryn Hill.” He created the template, all I had do to was say, “Of course.” If the younger generation wants to create songs for me and with me, then it’s an honor.

I remember Prince calling me up at like three o’clock in the morning when I was in London, and he wanted to make a point about this and that, [warning me]. I listened to everything he had to say, then explained to him that I’m not a wishy-washy “yes man” for anybody. I still respect Clive, because I started with him in ’68/’69. And Supernatural is an album that to this day, is up there with the volume of people reached and millions sold with albums like Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I don’t know these things until people bring them to me and they tell me. So all I have, again, is the utmost gratitude to Bill Graham, Jerry Garcia, Michael Bloomfield, Clive Davis, Miles Davis, all of those people who went out of their way to open their doors for me in a very tangible way.

With the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, I’m curious about your thoughts before the event back then, and then right after. Did you know that it was going to be such a momentous event that would resonate throughout history?

I didn’t know until I went to New York. Jimi Hendrix had just left that day to go play in Maui at the Rainbow Bridge. When I got to the hotel at Fifth Avenue, Devon Wilson, who was the lady that he was living with, was in the lobby and she said, “Hey, what are you doing? Why don’t you go upstairs and change and we can go see a movie?” And I said, “What movie?” And she said, “Woodstock.” And I said, “Woodstock made a movie?” So we went over there and I was looking at everything and she said, “You’re next. Jimi Hendrix and I watched it last night right here and when you guys came on, he was blown away by the energy and the presentation.” I was like, “Really?” I was just a rookie at the time. When I saw us on the screen, it was the beginning of realizing that somehow this particular concert at Woodstock, like Monterey, was going to stand out of time.

Is there anything you can say preliminarily about the upcoming full-length that you did with Rick Rubin?

Everyone knows that my first passion is African music, since the beginning. When we recorded 49 songs in 10 days, Rick asked, “Who do you want to be the singer in this particular adventure?” And I told him, “I only hear two ladies: Laura Mvula and Buika.” So Laura sings on one of the songs and everything else was done with Buika. Buika is a combination of Nina Simone, Etta James, Tina, Aretha, but she doesn’t sound like them. She also has this African Flamenco thing. She came in later, while I was on the road for a week. She started crying and said, “Maestro, “—she calls me “maestro,” the same thing I call Plácido Domingo—“when I was invited and I started listening to the songs, I started hearing lyrics and melodies that I’ve never done in my whole life.” She even told me I didn’t have to pay her, because she was just so honored, so grateful because I brought something out of her that she hadn’t done in her whole life.

Wait until you hear this thing. From the first note, it gives you total chills. Rick Rubin said, “Carlos, your guitar, your notes sound like drops of light coming from the sky.” I play the entire thing through a Stratocaster that I bought in Chicago. It’s a different sound than people are used to from Santana. It sounded like a very piercing, very sharp machete or samurai sword. I like it like that because it’s a nice contrast to the band and to Buika. I can tell you with spiritual confidence—not arrogance—that Jerry Garcia and everyone is going to go, “Daaaamn, dude.”

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