Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Carlos Santana at ACL Live: Two nights with Michael Franti

Brian T. Atkinson
Rock guitar legend Carlos Santana will have a day off between his Austin shows next week.

Carlos Santana's "Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time" (2010) retools standards near (Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" with Joe Cocker) and far in spirit (Def Leppard's "Photograph" with Chris Daughtry).

The iconic ax-man plans to visit with kindred souls while he's here to support the album (Monday and Wednesday at ACL Live). "I like to reconnect with Jimmie Vaughan, give him a hug and feel the vibe from Stevie Ray," he says. "We were — we still are — brothers."

American-Statesman: Explain the song selection process for ‘Guitar Heaven.'

Carlos Santana:The concept came from my brother, (current Sony Music executive) Clive Davis. He selected seven songs and I selected seven songs.

What drew you to ZZ Top's ‘La Grange' (a bonus track on the Japanese edition)?

Well, we both love John Lee Hooker. If not for John Lee Hooker, that song wouldn't be.

Which were most challenging to interpret?

I think the ones from the '80s – (Van Halen's) "Dance the Night Away" and "Photograph" – were the most challenging. They're not as bluesy. The Rolling Stones ("Can't You Hear Me Knocking") or Led Zeppelin ("Whole Lotta Love") or the Doors ("Riders On the Storm") were easiest because that's part of my vocabulary.

As a student of the instrument, what still intrigues you about the guitar?

Finding the hard center of every note is still very, very important to me. Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Freddie King, B.B. King, I come from that expression of melody. The brutality and physicality of Buddy Guy I'll take over any mental arriving. Music is supposed to arouse your holy ghost that maybe you haven't been visiting lately.

Spirituality and creativity have always gone together for you, right?

I think they're part and parcel. I grew up with things that are important to me: On one hand, B.B. King, Tito Puente, Miles (Davis); on the other, the passion and compassion of Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu and Martin Luther King Jr.

What's the mission of this Sound of Collective Consciousness tour?

It's to bring awareness. Certain people like Bruce Lee or Bob Marley or John Lennon transcend time. Collective consciousness means being able to hit every heart.

The hippies were not what they painted us in Hollywood. We're not a bunch of dirty people who didn't care. There was a lot of consciousness in the hippies I hung around with. Yeah, later on they came with fake mustaches and wigs to get free love and free food. Those weren't hippies. Those were opportunists.

What should the current generation take away from the hippie ideals?

Believing that you can make a difference. Songs like The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" and Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" are still challenging people to get off your butt. Stop complaining. Change something without being violent. Put a smile on your face. Stop watching dysfunctional people on TV. Do something creative!

Does that message apply to your goals with the Maria Maria restaurants?

Well, we give people jobs and serve some good food. When I receive funds, we help people who graduate from high school with great grades but don't have money go to universities. There's many ways to be of service to humanity.

Will you stop by the Austin location (at 415 Colorado St.) while you're in town?

Oh yeah. I definitely want to stop by the restaurant and get some tacos.

Santana with Michael Franti