Carlos Santana stood as the dominant figure of the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards on Wednesday, his namesake Latin-rock band's album Supernatural and its songs taking home nine awards.
Santana looked like the coolest guy in the building as he performed the hit "Smooth" (RealAudio excerpt) with Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20. The performance was followed by the album's victory in the Album of the Year category. Supernatural, which has sold more than 6 million copies, is the most successful album of the band's 30-year career.
In his acceptance remarks, Clive Davis, the Arista Records chairman who co-produced Supernatural, said, "This has so much more significance than just the Album of the Year. You're an inspiration to every young musician on the planet."
Backstage after the show, Davis, dressed conservatively in a black and gray tuxedo, said, "This is a reuniting of Carlos and myself. He was the third artist I ever signed."
Afterward, Santana said he saw Supernatural's multiple wins as a testament to the music that came before him and inspired him.
"It feels like the music I learned from Mr. John Coltrane, from Mr. Miles Davis, that I learned from Mahalia Jackson," Santana said. "I learned a lot from a lot of musicians about dignity and harmony and grace. It feels so great to touch people's hearts more than anything."
Last year, Lauryn Hill was the big winner with five Grammys, a record for female performers.
Other winners Wednesday included teen pop singer Christina Aguilera, R&B trio TLC, country group the Dixie Chicks and Sting. Aguilera, whose self-titled debut album is six-times platinum and counting, won Best New Artist. The giddy 19-year-old was at a loss for words as she accepted the award.
"My God. Thank you so, so much, you guys," a wide-eyed, ecstatic Aguilera, dressed in light blue, said from the podium.
Sting took home two trophies. His Brand New Day won for Best Pop Album and the title track won for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
The Roots took their win for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group as an opportunity to call attention to their use of instruments.
"Originally, black music was about musicianship," bassist Leon Hubbard said afterward. "We're bringing musicianship and talent back to the forefront. I guarantee you we're the only signed instrumental hip-hop group in the world."
Roots rapper Black Thought acknowledged Philadelphia, the group's hometown, and smiled widely as he lifted the award over his head.
The Dixie Chicks were repeat winners for Best Country Album. Their Fly followed last year's win for Wide Open Spaces.
"I don't think we thought we'd be here two years in a row. This never gets old," singer Natalie Maines said.
Although the story of the evening was Santana's big haul, fashion and live performances also stood out from Kid Rock's faithful cover of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an American Band," which show host Rosie O'Donnell said scared her, to the open, short aqua dress Jennifer Lopez wore that drew raucous applause for exposing a nearly illegal amount of cleavage.
The winners giggled, expressed shock and amazement and thanked God, while the performers wore leather pants, black sequins (Whitney Houston wore them in her cowgirl hat), big elated smiles and, in the case of Britney Spears and TLC's Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, wild pigtails. O'Donnell made fashion a hot topic, saying that 18-year-old Spears, who emerged as a teen sex symbol and pop star of the first order last year, would look good in an "Amish smock." Spears wore a sequined red outfit that accentuated her curvy hips.
Latin heartthrob Ricky Martin set the stage on fire literally. He spun enthusiastically as he stood in a ring of flames during his performance. His tight leather pants were equally scorching.
Even the usually ruffled Bob Dylan managed to look dapper. Dylan, who presented the award for Album of the Year with Lauryn Hill, seemed cocky and relaxed, wearing a navy blue suit and a confident smile. Hill, though, wore an uncomfortable expression, fidgeting as she stood next to the legendary folk singer.
But it was Elton John, winner of the Grammy Legend Award, who chose to colorfully sum up the evening backstage: "It's kind of bullsh--, this show, isn't it? Who's to say what the best record is?"