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Gregg Rolie Said It Took a Year to Talk Carlos Santana Into Recording ‘Black Magic Woman’

Ethan Miller / Rodrigo Varela, Getty Images
Ethan Miller / Rodrigo Varela, Getty Images

Gregg Rolie has revealed how it took him a year to persuade Carlos Santana to record “Black Magic Woman” – the track that helped break them.

The Santana and Journey keyboardist was a fan of the Peter Green-penned Fleetwood Mac track from the first time he heard it in 1969, after bandmate Michael Shrieve gave him a copy of the song. Rolie immediately decided it was a piece of music he wanted to work on. However, his boss took a lot longer to be talked into the idea. While Fleetwood Mac’s version was released as a single in 1968, and appeared on an album the following year, Santana’s take didn’t arrive until 1970, featured on their landmark second album, Abraxas.

“Michael Shrieve gave me the album that had ‘Black Magic Woman’ on it because he knew I loved Peter Green from his John Mayall time and … the Bluesbreakers,” Rolie told Glide Magazine. “I said, ‘This song is great!’ So I brought it to the band – not the recording, but the chord changes – and during rehearsals we would play it. It took a year of talking people into doing this. Carlos finally really connected with it. He goes, ‘What is this?’ I said, ‘It’s a song by Fleetwood Mac.’

Despite the time factor, Rolie reflected that time in the studio with Santana was never particularly stressful. “Everything just rolled out,” he recalled. “We just played. It was a jam band, and we would jam things and play on them, and play on them, until it kind of came together based around a song. But the idea was, like the early Journey, to get the music very high and get people excited. That’s how it went. None of them were really that difficult other than some took longer than others just to get them done.”

Rolie was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Journey earlier this month, making him one of the few artists to have been inducted twice, after Santana received the honor in 1998.

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