Santana's Grammy Recognition Long Deserved, Observers Say

Ex–Grateful Dead drummer says guitarist has 'unique ability to connect us to the spirit world.'

Carlos Santana is getting the recognition he has long deserved, his peers and other music industry observers said Tuesday about the whopping 10 Grammy Award nominations for the veteran rock guitarist's namesake band.

"Carlos plays from the heart," Mickey Hart, ex-drummer for fellow San Francisco Bay Area band the Grateful Dead, said through his publicist. "He has always had a unique ability to connect us to the spirit world. Carlos is music. Notes just seem to fall off his fingers like a waterfall of sound — always in rhythm."

Santana's 10 nominations include nods in the top two categories — Album of the Year for the five-times platinum Supernatural and Record of the Year for the single "Smooth" (RealAudio excerpt). That song, which features Matchbox 20 singer Rob Thomas, was the longest running #1 song of 1999, remaining in the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for 12 consecutive weeks. It's still at #1.

"The response to Supernatural has far exceeded all our expectations," Santana said in a statement issued Tuesday evening. "I am deeply gratified to know that we were able to touch the hearts and minds of a whole new generation of fans, and I want to express my appreciation to everyone who contributed to the success of this project, from the many fine artists I had the pleasure to work with to everyone at Arista, including my dear friend, Clive Davis."

Santana's pointed mention of Davis comes as the Arista president reportedly has been fighting with Arista's parent company, BMG, to save his job; the bandleader previously has voiced strong support for Davis.

Bill Evans, music director at KFOG, a classic-rock station in San Francisco, said Santana has "been working hard for over 30 years at a sound that he has perfected. I certainly hope that [the awards] come through for him, but being nominated in 10 categories is just phenomenal."

The 52-year-old Santana and his band have been nominated for Grammys five times before, going back to 1973, but only Santana's 1987 solo album, Blues for Salvador, won — for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

Santana scored his first chart-topping album in almost 30 years when the star-studded Supernatural hit #1 on the Billboard 200 albums charts in October. Among the band's notable Grammy-nominated collaborations on the album are "Put Your Lights On," featuring rapper Everlast; "The Calling," an instrumental with Eric Clapton; and "Love of My Life" (RealAudio excerpt), featuring Dave Matthews.

"It's amazing how his guitar can fit so many styles of music, be it hip-hop, love ballad or rock 'n' roll," Evans said. "The flow of this record, with the different styles of music on it, is quite astounding."

Evans also gave credit to Davis for "nurturing that record out of Carlos."

TLC and classical conductor Pierre Boulez followed Santana with six nominations each.

"I was really shocked," TLC member Chilli (born Rozonda Thomas) said. "I can't wait to call [bandmates Left-Eye and T-Boz] because they have no idea.

"I hope we win all of them."

TLC's album Fanmail — which debuted at #1 in March and has gone five-times platinum — is up for Album of the Year, while their singles "No Scrubs" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Unpretty" (RealAudio excerpt) are up for Record of the Year and Song of the Year — a songwriting award — respectively. The group has won two Grammys, including Best R&B Album for CrazySexyCool, in 1996.

Country band Asleep at the Wheel, Grammy favorites who have won six times, received five nominations for their album Ride With Bob, a tribute to Western swing pioneer Bob Wills, featuring the Dixie Chicks, Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin and other guests. Getting four nominations each were the Backstreet Boys, the Dixie Chicks, R&B/hip-hop singer Lauryn Hill — the big winner at last year's Grammys — country singer Emmylou Harris and R&B singer Whitney Houston.

The Grammy nominations were announced at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning, with pop singer Christina Aguilera, singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan and hip-hop/soul singers Macy Gray and Mary J. Blige among the artists on hand to unveil the nominees.

Other nominees include Limp Bizkit, Korn, Kid Rock, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, Eminem, the Roots, Metallica, Buckcherry, Alice in Chains, Busta Rhymes, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The Grammy Awards will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. Feb. 23 on CBS-TV from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

For a complete list of Grammy nominations, go to www.grammy.com.