If you are a classic rock fan, you are familiar with Santana and Journey. Some of you (like my son) may just be getting into this genre so I’ll take this as an opportunity to provide a brief background for each band, share an interesting connection between the two groups, and make a few song recommendations along the way.
Santana is the name of a band formed by Carlos Santana, Gregg Rolie, Michael Carabello, and Michael Shrieve in 1966. Carlos Santana is considered one of the all-time great rock guitarists and has sold 43.5 million albums in the US and an estimated 100 million worldwide. The band performed at Woodstock (1969) and its first three albums feature songs that are still in rotation today on classic rock radio stations and my iTunes playlists.
The first three albums:
- Santana, 1969 – 2x platinum (US) [2 million albums sold in U.S.A]
- Abraxas, 1970 – 5x platinum (US)
- Santana III, 1971 – 2x platinum (US)
In 1972, the original band split apart and only Carlos Santana remained the constant over the next few decades with ~ 15 more albums released. Several of those would reach platinum status in the U.S. In 1999, Santana released the album Supernatural which sold 15 million copies and is by far his biggest selling album. It featured the #1 hit Smooth with Rob Thomas on vocals and Maria Maria.
My favorite song from Santana is Black Magic Woman from the 1970 Abraxas album.
Interestingly, this song was written and first recorded by the original blue-based version of Fleetwood Mac (before Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the band). Most of us recognize the signature guitar sound of Santana on that track, but who is the singer? The Santana version features Gregg Rolie on vocals and keyboard. Other popular Santana tracks featuring Gregg’s vocals include Oye Como Va and Evil Ways.
Gregg Rolie left Santana in 1972 along with Neal Schon (who had joined Santana in 1971), and manager Herbie Herbert. Together, they formed what would become the hugely popular band we know as Journey. Between 1973 and 1977, Journey released three albums that were modestly received, at best. Steve Perry became the lead vocalist for Journey in 1977 with Gregg Rolie still performing lead or co-lead vocals on some tracks along with keyboards.
Have you every heard the Journey songs Feeling That Way and Anytime and wondered who is sharing vocals with Steve Perry?
The singer is Gregg Rolie – original Santana vocalist/keyboardist. Over time, Gregg’s influence in Journey would wane and he left Journey in 1980 after Journey’s Departure album and tour.
Journey would go on to sell 48 million albums in the US and an estimated 100 million worldwide. It is impossible for me to pick a favorite Journey song. They probably have 15 or so that I crank up the volume for every time they come on the radio. From the Gregg Rolie era, Wheel in the Sky (with Steve Perry on vocals) is among my favorites.
The Essential Journey album (greatest hits) captures many of their most popular songs. But there are always plenty of gems that never make it to these compilations. Winds of March is one example. Journey was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 with Gregg Rolie as a member. Gregg was also inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of Santana in 1998.
Gregg may not have received the mass notoriety of Carlos Santana or Steve Perry, but I am a big fan of his vocals, musicianship, and song writing. I thank him for his contributions to the sound track of my life.
If I were to create my all-time playlist of my 50 favorite songs, Santana and Journey certainly have catalogs worthy of close consideration. Top-50 is a tough cut though. While Journey would have quite a few in my top 500, none make the top-50 cut. Santana’s Black Magic Woman initially makes the cut for my top-50. I’m also going to include Santana’s version of the Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps in my top 50. You may have never heard this version, but I love it. I hope you enjoy it as well.