Original Santana singer and keyboardist Gregg Rolie celebrates his 72nd birthday today (June 17th). The Santana song “Oye Como Va” from the album Abraxas in 1970 surprised the band. Gregg Rolie recalls that the non-Latino members of Santana were taken aback at the idea of covering “Oye Como Va.”. He recalls that he had to learn to sing “Oye Como Va” phonetically. Unlike most of the band members, he and drummer Mike Shrieve didn’t speak Spanish. Rolie remembers the song — whose title translates as “Hear how it goes” — as sounding very different than anything the band had previously attempted.
“The original, done by Tito Puente, when these guys — Carlos and Carabello and Chepito — brought this song in, ‘Man, listen to this.’ Mike and I are looking at each other like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. You want to play this?’ I mean, it was real Latin. ‘Well, OK, we’ll try.’ And we did it and it was totally different from anything I had a scope on wanting to play, but we got into it and it’s fun to play.”
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