Happy Birthday Carlos Santana: Playing (Grateful) Dead

Today marks Carlos Santana’s 74th birthday. The renowned and highly influential guitarist was born on July 20, 1947 in Mexico. Carlos and his family relocated to San Francisco in the mid-1960s where he — with his Santana Blues Band, later shortened to just Santana — would become not only a pioneer of the San Francisco Sound but also broke ground with his signature blend of blues, Latin jazz, rock and psychedelia, which would influence generations of artists after him, especially following his landmark performance at Woodstock in 1969.

As a key figure in the San Francisco scene, Carlos naturally forged a friendship and collaborated with the Grateful Dead. Later, Santana sat-in with GD and other Dead-related projects in the ’80s, ’90s and beyond. To celebrate Carlos Santana’s birthday, here’s a look at several Carlos Santana/Dead collaborations throughout the decades.

Grateful Dead | January 13, 1980

The first entry here took place at the Oakland Coliseum on January 13, 1980, for a Cambodian Refugee Benefit which the Grateful Dead and Carlos Santana were involved in. The Dead delivered a set and welcomed Carlos as well as fellow San Francsico Sound pioneer and Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John Cippolina for “Not Fade Away” and “Sugar Magnolia.”

Grateful Dead | August 22, 1987

On August 22, 1987, Santana sat-in with GD at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds in Angel’s Camp, California. Carlos helped the Dead close out their first set with pair of classics in Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Morning Little Shcool Girl” and Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour.”

Grateful Dead | April 28, 1991

April 28, 1991 saw the Grateful Dead at Sam Boyd Silver Bowl on the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus during their spring tour. Santana would once again help GD close out their first set, this time with “Bird Song.”


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voodoonola (See 128 videos)
Grateful Dead (See 1,276 videos) and Carlos Santana (See 15 videos)

Grateful Dead | October 27, 1991

Flash forward to Fall Tour 1991 where Santana and another Quicksilver guitarist, Gary Duncan, joined the Grateful Dead on October 27 back in the Bay Area. The guitarists sat-in on just the second and final GD performance of Do Diddley’s “Mona” (the first coming with Bo Diddley himself in 1972) as well as “Iko Iko” just ahead of “Drums” and “Space.”

Grateful Dead | January 26, 1993

Carlos Santana made his final appearance with the Grateful Dead on January 26, 1993 at one of GD’s famed Chinese New Year concerts. Santana emerged for the seamless post “Space” segment playing on “The Other One,” “Stella Blue” and “Turn On Your Love Light” and also stuck around for the “Gloria” encore. But it was on “Stella Blue” that Carlos delivered an impassioned solo after learning the song from Bob Weir on the spot just before the performance.


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LoloYodel (See 276 videos)
Grateful Dead (See 1,276 videos) and Carlos Santana (See 15 videos)

Phil Lesh & Friends | September 12, 2015

Jump ahead to the 2015 LOCKN’ festival where Carlos made his Phil Lesh & Friends debut. The lineup also included guitarist Warren Haynes, drummer John Molo and keyboardist Rob Barraco. Santana shined on both “Scarlett Begonias” and “Fire On The Mountain” (not played consecutively) and also helped the exploration on “Dark Star.”


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Relix (See 1,597 videos)
Phil Lesh & Friends (See 183 videos) , Carlos Santana (See 15 videos) and Warren Haynes (See 216 videos)

Billy & The Kids With Billy Strings & James Casey | May 9, 2021

Just two months ago, Carlos Santana joined the stellar lineup of Billy & The Kids with Billy Strings and James Casey to close out Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann’s livestreamed birthday run in Hawaii dubbed “Grateful Mahalo: Billy Kreutzmann’s 75th Birthday Pa’ina.” Carlos played with the group for the entire set, which featured aforementioned songs like “Scarlet > “Fire,” “Iko Iko,” “The Other One” and more.


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Relix (See 1,597 videos)
Billy & The Kids (See 23 videos) , Billy Strings (See 319 videos) , Carlos Santana (See 15 videos) and James Casey (See 18 videos)