That Time Carlos Santana Stormed the Grammys
Before the 42nd annual Grammy Awards in 2000, Carlos Santana had taken home just one trophy.
His all-star comeback album Supernatural was an out-of-nowhere smash. Still, few could have predicted that he would claim an astonishing eight Grammys on Feb. 23, 2000. Certainly not Santana. "The response to Supernatural has far exceeded all our expectations," he told MTV. "I am deeply gratified to know that we were able to touch the hearts and minds of a whole new generation of fans."
He went on to give credit for the Supernatural concept to Clive Davis, the record-company maven who had originally signed Santana in the late '60s. It was Davis' idea to pair the Woodstock-era guitarist with modern-day artists like Lauryn Hill, Dave Matthews, Everlast and CeeLo Green, among others. To say it worked is a wild understatement.
Supernatural went 15 times platinum in the U.S., and sold 30 million records worldwide on the strength of the singles "Maria Maria" (with an assist from Wyclef Jean) and "Smooth" (with Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty). To say the latter was a huge hit is an even wilder understatement. When Billboard released a list of the most popular pop songs of the past 55 years in 2013, "Smooth" came in second -- behind only Chubby Checker's era-defining "The Twist."
Still, eight Grammys? Those are Michael Jackson-type numbers, not Santana. The guitarist hadn't been a cultural force since the early '70s when his original band split. Before "Smooth," he had hadn't scored a Top 10 hit since 1970, and hadn't place a song in the Hot 100 since 1985. His only Grammy win at that point was in 1988 for an instrumental. A frustrated Santana, discussing the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' elimination of several Latin music categories in 2011, had gone so far as to label the Grammys "ignorant and racist." He hadn't even released an album in seven years.
Before Supernatural, Carlos Santana seemed more like a candidate for one of those valedictory "lifetime achievement" nods than to sweep the actual award categories.
But there was no stopping "Smooth," which had already hit No. 1 on two separate occasions -- first on Oct. 30, 1999, staying on top the charts for three weeks, and then again on Jan. 22, 2000, for another three weeks. The song was honored with Grammys for Best Pop Duo Collaboration with Vocals, and both Record of the Year and Song of the Year -- the latter of which went to composers Thomas and Itaal Shur. "Smooth" returned to the top spot one more time, starting a six-week run on Feb. 26, 2000, following the Grammy wins. Ultimately, it set a Billboard record for longest tenure in the Top 10 ever by a No. 1 song.
"I look at the whole moment like it was a giant parade -- the Supernatural parade," Thomas remembered years later. "And 'Smooth' got to be the first float."
Santana, then 52, also claimed the Album of the Year award, beating out the Backstreet Boys, TLC, the Dixie Chicks and Diana Krall. He also took top honors for Best Rock Album, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal ("Put Your Lights On," with Everlast), Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal ("Maria, Maria"), Best Pop Instrumental Performance ("El Farol") and Best Rock Instrumental Performance ("The Calling," with Eric Clapton).
Backstage, Santana said he was proud "to be able to demonstrate to the people that deepness and class can be as profitable as shallowness and crass. This validates the idea that quality and quantity can go together." When it was all over, Santana had tied Michael Jackson's record for the most awards ever won in a single night.
Of his 10 nominations, Santana failed to claim a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition, and, in a sign of the evening's larger triumph, he actually had two recordings in the running for Best Pop Duo Collaboration with Vocals. "Smooth" beat out "Love of My Life," a Supernatural song featuring Dave Matthews. Other stars, including Sheryl Crow, could only stand back in wonder. Upon receiving her Grammy for best female rock vocalist, Crow quipped, "First, I want to say thanks to Carlos Santana -- for not being in this category."
See Yearbook Photos for Carlos Santana and Other Rockers