Music is My Life: Episode 069

Drummer Cindy Blackman Santana on Carlos, Lenny, and Visitations from Jazz Greats

Cindy Blackman Santana photographed by Jimmy Bruch

Cindy Blackman Santana never had a fallback plan for if she couldn’t be a professional drummer, but she did at least look into other professions, such as law, “because I wanted to help injustices,” she says, and brain surgery, “because it was very intricate.”

“But when I checked into both of those fields,” she says, “I realized that it would take so much schooling that it would take away time from drumming and I’d never be able to play.”

Young Cindy Blackman spent a lot of time in school for drums as well, attending the Hartt School of Music, and Berklee College of Music, the latter of which she left after three semesters for a very unique gig with the Drifters in the late 1970s.

From there she moved to New York City and learned first-hand from some of the greatest jazz musicians in history; Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Max Roach, and more. She also says she’s even had visitations from beyond with some of these musicians.

She made a more rock ‘n’ roll career move next, when she auditioned for Lenny Kravitz’s band in the early 1990s, and what she thought was going to be a two-week exploration turned into 17 years.

“Lenny always teased me and said, ‘you didn’t know what you were stepping into, did you?’”

That’s Cindy Blackman behind the drums in the iconic “Are You Gonna Go My Way” video.

Then she began playing with Carlos Santana, and as she says, the chemistry was there onstage and off. They got married the next year, and Cindy Blackman became Cindy Blackman Santana.

“When Carlos came along, I really loved where he was at, in terms of the spiritual path he was on, and that was really key for me in terms of flowering a relationship,” she says.

Listen to the full interview at the top of this page, or wherever you get your podcasts.