Jorge Santana, Malo Leader and Brother of Carlos, Dies
Best Classic Bands Staff
Jorge Santana (Photo via Carlos Santana’s Facebook page)
Jorge Santana, the younger brother of Carlos Santana, and a significant musician himself, died yesterday (May 14). He was 68. Carlos Santana announced his death; the cause was said to be a heart attack at his Bay Area home.
Jorge Santana was the youngest of three brothers and the second after Carlos to pick up the guitar. Beginning in 1972, he was the leader of the band Malo, known for their blend of Latino, rock, jazz and blues. The band released numerous albums; their 1972 self-titled debut LP, as a 12-piece, reached #14 on the Billboard album chart, and featured a big pop hit, “Suavecito,” a #18 pop single that same year.
Carlos Santana posted the news on his Facebook page, shortly before 10 a.m. ET:
He transitioned unto the realm of light that cast no shadow
the eyes of my heart clearly see him right in between our glorious and magnificent mother Josefina and our father Jose… They are caressing his face and kissing his hands showering him with Light and Love
We love cherish and honor
your soul MEMO
Carlos and the Santana family
Carlos and Jorge Santana collaborated on the 1994 album Brothers.
Watch them perform on The Late Show with David Letterman later that year
Born June 13, 1951, in Autlan, Jalisco, Mexico, Jorge Santana was inspired by the musical activity in the household. Without formal music instruction, he started playing the guitar at age 14 in San Francisco.
At first, he was drawn to the sounds and rhythms of the blues and Carlos’ interpretations of that style of music. He credited Carlos with introducing him to a wide range of music, musical styles, personalities and experiences.
By the late ’60s and while still in high school, Jorge was playing with a four-piece blues band in local San Francisco clubs. He was asked to join a band called the Malibus, a nine-piece R&B group with horns. After a steady club gig that helped the band refine its sound, they changed their name to Malo. As part of the active scene in San Francisco in the early ’70s, the band was signed by Warner Bros. Records.
Listen to Malo’s big 1972 hit, “Suavecito”
Fellow original Malo member Richard Bean first met Santana when a fellow band member brought him to Bean’s home where the Malibus were rehearsing. “From that day on, we began our musical journey,” said Bean, who later joined the Jorge Santana Band.
On his own in 1974, Jorge Santana appeared as a special guest with the Fania All Stars in a concert held at Madison Square Garden. The performance has been released on the Fania label.
He then moved to Mill Valley, Calif., and devoted his time exclusively to a personal exploration of music. Between 1975 and 1977, when he started putting a new band together, Jorge did little but play the guitar. That period led to his first solo project for Tomato Records. Titled Jorge Santana, the album, produced by Tony Bongiovi of the Power Station in New York, featured his own songs and arrangements.
Jorge Santana in the 1970s
That album was followed by It’s All About Love, produced by Allen Toussaint. Santana married in 1982 and moved to Walnut Creek, where he and his wife started a family.
In 1989, Carlos asked Jorge to join the team at Santana Management. He was put in charge of artist relations and his skills and experience led to his involvement in production, music clearances, publishing and a number of other responsibilities, and eventually got him on the road with the Santana band.
It was while on the road, and as Jorge performed with the band on various dates, that the idea for the Brothers album came up. Jorge took an active role on the album, writing, arranging and producing both his own songs and collaborating with Carlos (and nephew Carlos Hernandez) on others.
Malo is still touring, with Richard Bean leading the band, though they are on hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “My bandmates and I will continue to carry the legacy of Malo in memory of Jorge,” said Bean.
Malo’s current vocalist, Aki Starr, who also served as lead singer for the Jorge Santana Band, said, “In the last 20 years, Jorge became my best friend, my older brother, and someone I loved very much.
“May your beautiful guitar playing bring joy and love to everyone in Heaven.”
Related: Our Album Rewind of a Carlos Santana classic