(With Photo - Carlos Santana)


By George Varga
Copley News Service

       "Don't live small or dream small. Live big. Dream big."
       Those words of inspiration help propel Carlos Santana, the pioneering Latin-rock guitarist who has been living big since his 1969 performance at Woodstock catapulted his percussion-driven band to fame and fortune.
       But the superstardom he has achieved since his group's "Supernatural" album last year has exceeded his wildest dreams.
       "Look where I am today. The previous album we did (1993's 'Sacred Fire') sold 200,000 copies, and this one is now close to 22 million in sales worldwide," said the Mexican-born Santana.
       He recently was also honored at a morning ceremony in his former hometown of Tijuana, where he was given the keys to the city and named Tijuana's cultural ambassador. The free outdoor event was held at the Palacio Municipal in the Zona Rio district. (On Oct. 10, the Tijuana City Council voted against renaming a major street or a bridge near the Tijuana/San Diego border for him.)
       "I like to believe Santana is beyond the music," he said. "It's about bringing unity and harmony to families within the city, state, nation - the world."
       Santana, 53, has had an exceptionally busy year. Besides his hectic touring schedule and his full family life, he was the big winner at February's Grammy Awards, when "Supernatural" earned nine trophies. And, last month, the same album won three Latin Grammy Awards.
       In his first interview since February's Grammys, he spoke recently from his San Francisco office about his career and about growing up in Tijuana, where he moved as a boy from Autlan de Navarro, an agricultural center in the Mexican state of Jalisco.
Q. You were only 8 when you moved to Tijuana in 1955. What was your first impression of the city?
Santana: "Let's see. It was the last part of July, and it was extremely hot and very dusty. In the beginning, it was a little scary, because something was happening between my mom and dad and it was (uncertain) whether they would keep us together as a family, which they did. There were eight of us in Colonia Libertad, a very funky part of Tijuana. They didn't have running water or electricity then.
       "It got better; we moved to the center of town. The smell of tacos, the colors, the tourists, Roy Rogers, Sugar Ray Robinson, (the music of) Bo Diddley, Little Richard - all of that was Tijuana for me. Everything is still very clear in my mind. Tijuana is like the "Star Wars" cantina. Especially now, with people coming not just from Mexico, but from all over Latin America, to cross the border. Tijuana is a whole other world with a lot of innocence, with all the children, and (also there is) crime, with drugs and all of that."
Q. What are your fondest memories of growing up there?
Santana: "What I treasure the most is going to the bullfights, and - on Sundays - to Avenida Revolucion, with all the colors and the sound of marimbas. It was really lovely. I have a lot of great admiration and respect for the people and the spirit of Tijuana, because it's not easy to live in that town. A woman in Tijuana has to be gifted with a lot of faith, because you don't know from day to day how you'll put food on your table."
Q. Did that apply to your mother then as well?
Santana: "That applies to a lot of people, even today, because there's no welfare. So, you have to depend on creating something that the tourists have to buy, or the neighbors. You have to improvise."
Q. Before you began playing electric bass and guitar at nightclubs on Avenida Revolucion as a teen-ager, did you think you would follow in the footsteps of your father, Jose, and become a mariachi?
Santana: "I was hoping not, because I never liked that environment. But, hey, I don't have to like a certain kind of Mexican food; if I'm American, I don't have to like hamburgers. I don't like to be stereotyped. Some of that (mariachi) music is played to appease tourism; just like in Las Vegas where they wear certain clothes to attract (casino) customers.
       "My taste for music at that point was Little Richard and John Lee Hooker, and I hoped to go another direction than mariachi, (though) I loved my dad, and his feeling for music, and the way people loved him."
Q. How quickly did you become aware that you were living in a Mexican border city that was on the cusp of two very different cultures and ways of life - rich and poor?
Santana: "When you're a child, you just want to play games. I could tell by my mom's face that she was very sad when we moved to Colonia Libertad, not that she expected any riches, but we were so drastically poor and she didn't want to have her children living in a place like that. I remember my dad cracked a box of Spearmint gum in half and he also gave my brother a shoeshine box. My mother never realized this, but my father pulled us aside, and said, basically: 'Don't come back until you sell this gum, because we need help with the rent.'
       "He had his violin, and he had four brothers and two sisters to feed, plus me, my brother and my mother. In retrospect, I can see why he was so stern about it. He needed help. It was a cold slap in the face for me, but a good lesson. Because, ever since, I'm not afraid of the streets, not at all."
Q. How'd you react when your family moved to San Francisco in 1962?
Santana: "I didn't want to come. By that time, I was working on Revolucion at the Convoy Club, and was making my own money. Actually, I liked being around prostitutes is what it came down to; at the age of 15 and 16, I didn't want to hang around a bunch of kids from junior high school. It was more fun hanging around grown people, and there's a certain mystique about prostitutes.
       "It's not that they like doing it, but they have kids to support. And hanging around with them after the gig was a lot of fun, going to Rosarito Beach and listening to Ray Charles on the radio. It was a great time to be a teen-ager, and you learn a lot from women anyhow.
       "A lot of prostitutes I saw there had more class than Queen Elizabeth. You can drive a Bentley or Rolls-Royce, but you can't buy class. Prostitutes do what they do at night; during the day, they dress their children in immaculate white outfits and take care of them, and the prostitute is a different person. I learned to value women immensely in Tijuana, and that's a big part of my life and music now. I learned how they walk, how they curse, how they pray, all of it. So, it was important to me to get that education."
Q. Didn't you briefly move back to Tijuana?
Santana: "I went back there on Halloween night in 1962, and it was really scary because my whole family was in San Francisco, (and) Tijuana was so poor and small. I went straight to the Mission of Guadalupe Church, downtown, and got myself together. I stayed in Tijuana one more year and got more education as a musician, and it really helped me out. It gave me a lot of belief and conviction."
Q. What did music mean to you when you formed the Santana Blues Band in San Francisco in 1966, and what does music mean to you now?
Santana: "Back then, I was just thinking of music as a means to give people joy. I knew a lot of people were not happy, and that music had a spirit to lift people out of that mire of frustration and depression. People have a hard time validating their own spiritual worth. People don't realize that with every breath you take, you have options and alternatives and choices, and that you can work with your divinity to create a phenomenal synchronicity in your life.
       "Music to me is extremely important. Because I never thought of Santana as selling tortillas, or records, but of giving people joy. Now, it's taken me to a whole other plateau.
       "When you consider the phenomenon of 'Supernatural,' it's the first album in a long time that parents, grandchildren and kids got into. Usually, parents and teen-agers don't listen to the same thing, so 'Supernatural' is quite a phenomenon. And that really validated the direction; it really confirmed that what we're doing with our music is the right thing."
Q. Is commercial or artistic success more important to you?
Santana: "Commercial success validates what you do. Van Gogh was really poor when he died, and now his paintings have more success than anyone's. I'm grateful to be in the same arena as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys, and to remind people that these acts don't have a monopoly on radio, and that people still gravitate to songs.
       "It's a phenomenon to live right now, in 2000, and have the No. 1 hits for so long on the charts, this year and last year. And, man, we're fiftysomething years old, and we didn't have to paint ourselves like Dracula, or wear funny clothes or do something stupid to sell it. It's the songs."
Q. Backstage at the Latin Grammy Awards, you said you hoped Spanish and English would become mandatory in schools in California, Arizona and other states that have large Latino populations. Are you surprised at how little attention those comments received?
Santana: "People won't pick up on that, on something that threatens their economy. I don't have any fear in saying it. I think we should make it mandatory English and Spanish.
       "In Europe, they speak several languages, fluently. In this country, we don't even speak English well, and we're going to be arrogant about it? Go to London, they speak good English; we speak bad 'American.' Why won't they invest more time and money into making it more harmonious?
       "To call people 'aliens' when you know they are from the same planet, how stupid and arrogant can you be? You can call them an alien when they are from another galaxy. It would be more important to start with English and Spanish being mandatory in schools, and spend more money on teachers and schools. Seven out of 10 Latinos drop out of school in California, and we spend $4,000 or $5,000 per student, and $35,000 per inmate, per year.
       "I'm not giving an interview to say: 'Buy my CD.' I want to talk about things more important than that. I know when people read this, most of them will realize I'm not complaining. I'm very grateful for the country I live in, but I love the whole world and my heart is really wired to accommodate the underdogs in the world. I'm trying to raise consciousness. Because, obviously, the government is not doing it and religion is not doing it. They're set up to make money.
       "I want to help people realize their own light, so that we can take this world to the next dimension. We don't have to rely on gurus and swamis. It's in your heart. You can ask your inner-guide: 'How can I help?' Behold, that's where I am. I'm successful. That's what success is: finding a need that the world needs fulfilled. I don't feel bad for supplying something I think is needed, which is hope."
Q. Do you hope people might have more compassion the next time they encounter a kid selling gum on the streets of Tijuana, or anywhere else, because you used to be that kid?
Santana: "I never wanted people to feel sorry for me or pity for me. I shy away from sensationalism and gossip. That's why - even though we broke a lot of sales records and won a lot of Grammy Awards - I shy away from TV shows, because they're very idiotic, insulting and demeaning.
       "The best thing that can come from this interview is that some people identify with that child in Tijuana. Because all of us are that child; it isn't just Carlos Santana. The more we can have people realize we are all one, the better. You and I, all of us, have a oneness. We're all one on this planet, so people shouldn't feel like that little kid selling gum wants to con them. He probably wants to help his father, like I did."

Visit Copley News Service at www.copleynews.com.



(With Photo - The Wallflowers)

The Wallflowers

By George Varga
Copley News Service

       Originality is prized by bands both younger and older than The Wallflowers. But Jakob Dylan, the leader of this classic-rock-inspired quintet and the son of one of rock 'n' roll's most imitated legends, is convinced originality is overrated.
       "I think people make a huge mistake by denying tradition," said Dylan, whose famed father continues to salute and extend various stylistic traditions on a nightly basis. "Everything lasting around you is based on tradition, whether it's architecture, pottery or whatever.
       "The idea of inventing something original is pointless, and it's often unattainable. Being original either happens or it doesn't. That's why groups who spend a lot of time when they are young playing cover songs (by other artists) are so powerful. You have to learn what you're doing first, before you can invent something of your own."
       Besides, originality isn't the point, at least not for this 30-year-old singer, songwriter and somewhat-reluctant rock star.
       "The point is to be inspired," said Dylan, who led The Wallflowers in a recent concert in San Diego.
       "Early on, people asked me a lot about my inspirations, and I mentioned the Clash. But my point was never to imitate them; I was not a middle-class guy from England. The same could be said of (singer-banjo great) Ralph Stanley, (because) bluegrass doesn't have relevance to my music. But it's thrilling for me to hear (him), and part of what's thrilling is that it (his music) is totally unattainable."
       For his part, Dylan and his band's thoughtful, no-nonsense brand of heartland rock has proven very attainable - and appealing - to a large audience. That despite (or, perhaps, because of) its stylistic debt to such artists as Tom Petty, the Band, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello (who guests on The Wallflowers' new album) and others, including Bob Dylan. The Los Angeles-based group's second album, 1996's "Bringing Down the Horse," sold more than 4 million copies and yielded such memorable hits as "One Headlight," "Three Marlenas" and "Sixth Avenue Heartache."
       Released recently, The Wallflowers' new album, "Breach," finds Dylan and his band crafting a sound and style of their own. It entered the national Billboard album sales charts at No. 13 with a bullet, buoyed by a media blitz that included a lengthy profile in Rolling Stone. The video for the album's first single, "Sleepwalker," is in regular airplay on both MTV and VH1, while the song is also on Billboard's Modern Rock, Mainstream Rock and Adult Top 40 charts.
       This feat underscores The Wallflowers' ability to appeal to a broad array of listeners, including a large number of young fans who don't necessarily care, or know, that the band's leader is the son of Bob Dylan. But timing is everything in the trend-driven pop music realm, and "Breach" dropped to No. 19 on the Billboard charts in its second week of release.
       "We've released all our records at the wrong time," Dylan said. "What other people are doing is irrelevant; you can't allow yourself to pay attention to it. A lot of people have made records compromising themselves in order to be 'current.' By their next record they backtrack, and say that they're 'getting back to their roots.' "You have to see who's been around a long time, and what they have - and haven't - done."
       Dylan knows he need look no farther than his own father to learn what to do to achieve musical longevity.
       But his dad has been a taboo subject, both in interviews and in the younger Dylan's songs, which went out of their way not to mention anything about his personal life in general - or even to write lyrics in the first person.
       "I definitely didn't want to spend much time giving people answers to stuff that wasn't relevant to what I was trying to do," he explained from Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and three young children. "It wasn't that I was avoiding it, as much as I was finding lots of other stuff in my life to write about. (Parents) are one part of a person, and there are many other parts."
       "Breach" boasts Dylan's most straightforward lyrics to date. Directly addressing personal topics in his songs proved liberating, he said.
       "While writing the record, I found it a lot more challenging. That was more of what I was attempting to do - to explore areas of songwriting I found interesting that I hadn't done before. And, oddly, it turned out to be by my being direct and straightforward. But I don't have a lot of interest in being introspective about myself. I don't listen to my other records; it's like looking at old high-school photos."
       Dylan's newfound directness is a large reason why "Breach" is the best of The Wallflowers' three albums. Another is his increasingly assured songwriting, which suggests he has the potential to transcend his well-known influences.
       But the song on "Breach" that has attracted the most attention, "Hand Me Down," deals with someone who may be his biggest influence of all (musical and otherwise) - his father.
       It finds Dylan facing the challenge of trying to follow in the footsteps of a world-famous parent. Witness such stinging lines as: You could never make us proud ... it's not your fault you embarrass us all.
       "The lyrics have been exaggerated," Dylan admitted. "But I've never felt the need to defend them or to deny what people are saying. That's the point - the songs are supposed to be interpreted by the listeners. I knew people would think this was a coming-out song that had me addressing the obvious, but it's not the case as much as they imagine."
       And what of Bob Dylan? Does Jakob hope to one day get to a musical destination - figuratively or literally - his father has not yet reached?
       "If you could find a place he hasn't been," the younger Dylan replied with the slightest hint of a chuckle, "let me know."

Visit Copley News Service at www.copleynews.com.



(With Photo - Sammy Hagar)

Sammy Hagar

By George Varga
Copley News Service
       Can Sammy Hagar still find the drive at nearly 55?
       The 53-year-old former Van Halen singer says he's ignoring every age-limit sign on the rock 'n' roll highway.
       "As time goes on, I don't see an end to doing this," Hagar says, phoning from his home in Marin County in Northern California. "This is what I do for a living. I'll be here when I'm 75 years old. I'm more like John Lee Hooker than I am like some pop star."
       Hagar recently released his dozenth solo album, "Ten 13." It's named for his Oct. 13 birthday, which he celebrated this year with a week-long party at the nightclub he owns in Mexico, drinking the brand of Tequila he bottles. (Both are called Cabo Wabo, after a 1988 Van Halen song.)
       "Ten 13" marks a return to the heavy-rock riffage of Hagar's early '80s albums, the ones that made him an obvious candidate to replace David Lee Roth in Van Halen 15 years ago. Screamers such as "Shaka Doobie (The Limit)" and the title track wallop the ear with the high-register intensity of a young Robert Plant.
       "I don't smoke," Hagar says, "at least not cigarettes, so my voice has never been a problem. I've never had nodes or any problems, unless I get sick and get a sore throat."
       One place the Red Rocker does act his age these days is in his lyrics. A marked maturity and concern for the future is reflected in new Hagar songs such as "The Message" and "Serious Juju," both of which bemoan environmental mistreatment.
       "Juju is healing," Hagar explains. "This Earth can completely heal itself over time, but the damage is being done at such a rapid pace that it can't keep up with us. I'm saying we need some serious juju to clean this thing up."
       Hagar has reason to heed the future. He's been a grandfather for two years. Hagar's second wife, former model Kari Karte, is also expecting his fourth child in April (which, incidentally, will make the child younger than its own niece).
       "To me, raising children is probably the most important thing you can do," Hagar says. "I'm all for doing it for the rest of my life. I'm gonna have my own kids running around the house, playing with my grandkids."
       Since getting fired from Van Halen in 1995 (or quitting, depending on whose story you believe), Hagar has found it increasingly difficult to get any message across to young people outside his family, however. As youthful as Hagar may fancy himself, "Total Request Live" watchers do not confuse him for a colleague of Kid Rock's or Britney Spears'.
       "Let's put it like this - I'm not gonna have a number one video on MTV," Hagar says. "I know that, you know that. MTV is one of the greatest promotional tools ever invented, but they're not into my age group. So I just have to go around that media."
       In recent weeks, Hagar could be found hosting "Talk Soup" on cable's E! channel and performing live on CBS Sports' "The NFL Today." The un-rock-like promotion campaign was spearheaded by Beyond Music, the boutique label Hagar fled to after his last album, 1999's "Red Voodoo," bombed under the watch of MCA Records.
       "They think different, and I like it," Hagar says of Beyond, a BMG-distributed arm of Left Bank Management (Motley Crue, Meat Loaf). "When you've got a new album, you've got to find ways of telling people it's out there. And doing this stuff is more fun than doing a video any day."
       One place you won't find Hagar is back in Van Halen. The blood between Hagar and guitarist Edward Van Halen is worse than ever.
       "I don't feel any better about what those guys did, and I'm not happy for them if they have any success without me, because I just don't think you go about your life that way," Hagar says. "You don't screw with people the way they were screwing with me. Between their manager (Ray Danniels) and Ed, they really tried to make me miserable, and they ended up stabbing me in the back for no reason.
       "The only problem we ever had was them bringing Dave back for the greatest-hits record. I hit the ceiling on that, obviously. And that was manipulated by their manager, who they've now fired. If you look at the whole thing, they have no reason to be pissed off at me, but they are because I went off. They can't stand that."
       Hagar confirms long-swirling rumors that Van Halen rehired Roth after firing its third singer, Gary Cherone, last year. But the reunion has ended just as abruptly as it did in 1995, he claims.
       "The last thing I heard was that Roth was in again and now he's out again," Hagar says, citing sources close to the band. "And there's not anything going on now that I know of."
       Spokespeople for Van Halen and Roth would not comment.
       Hagar says he feels sorry for Roth, his former adversary, "because I was in the band when Dave left, and they did everything in their power to crush his career. And I know that's what they tried to do to me, but it didn't work."
       Hagar says he's perfectly willing to appear and sing during Van Halen's imminent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, either with or without Roth. The band becomes eligible in 2003.
       "If I was invited, of course I would go," he says. "And I'd check the vibe out. If it was funky, I'd split. But if I know those guys, they'll work it out where they won't invite me somehow."

Visit Copley News Service at www.copleynews.com.


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