“After a while, you just accept that you are the real deal”: Carlos Santana on receiving praises from Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and BB King

“In the beginning I used to feel uncomfortable because I wasn’t used to getting adulation and so much attention.”

Carlos Santana

Image: Paras Griffin / Getty Images

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Acknowledgement from your guitar hero (or heroes) is probably the best confidence-booster out there, as Carlos Santana can probably attest to.

In a new interview with Forbes, Santana speaks about his journey to stardom as well as some of the moments early on that gave him confidence in his musical abilities.

“In Tijuana [the city Carlos grew up in], being next to my father, I remember somebody saying, ‘Well, that gentleman is really good, but his son is like something else,’” Santana recalls.

He says that compliments from guitar masters also helped a lot, citing a conversation with Jimi Hendrix in particular, that made him realise he, too, is the real deal.

“One of the things that really gave me a lot of confidence is when I was with Jimi Hendrix. And he said, ‘Santana, right?’ I say, ‘Yes.’ He grabs my hand. And he goes, ‘I love your choice of notes.’”

“So when I’m playing “Concierto de Aranjuez” and Miles Davis goes, “You know how to do it right. A lot of people don’t know how to play it right.” So when I get a compliment from Miles Davis and Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King, I must be pretty good. After a while you just accept that you are the real deal.”

As for how he ensures such confidence never translates to arrogance, Santana explains: “Arrogance is insecurity. And I’m not insecure. Never have been. I don’t have a victim mentality. My mother said with clarity, ‘You are who you are because of God, and you have what you have because of people. Be grateful to both.’”

“And so when I look at it like that, it just makes me feel like I am really, really blessed to cross the border, come to America. And somebody hands me like two rolls of tickets to go to all the rides and all the food that I can eat at Disneyland. Somehow meeting Bill Graham and Jerry Garcia and Michael Bloomfield, and they’re all looking at me like I’m bringing something to the table. Like I’m some kind of darling kid.”

He continues: “In the beginning I used to feel uncomfortable because I wasn’t used to getting adulation and so much attention. I was like, ‘Ooh like give it to somebody else.’ And that’s because like most people, I didn’t have a deep sense of self-worth. Now when I say a deep sense of self-worth, that doesn’t mean you’re arrogant. It means that you have a knowing that you’re priceless and you’re precious because God loves you and He believes in you.”

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