By Dr. Alan Carlos Hernandez on February 15, 2017
SAN FRANCISCO (Herald de Paris) — Â Andy Vargas is the lead singer of the global rock group Santana and has been living the dream, as he calls it, for over 20 years and 20 World Tours. He leaves for Australia in a few days, then Asia, then well into rock history, as Santana keeps rock and rolling along.
Santana is one of the United Statesâ biggest international acts and has held that distinction since before Andy Vargas was born, and there is no doubt he was born to do this.
Andy grew up in a very musical family and was influenced first by his father, Javier Vargas, and artists like Pedro Fernandez, Luis Miguel, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, La Mafia, Little Joe, Johnny Y La Familia, and bay area bands such as Malo, Tower of Power and, of course, Carlos Santana.
Herald de Paris Consulting Editor, Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez, thanks to Bay Area music impresario Dr. Rock Bernardo Gonzalez, had the opportunity to spend a recent Saturday afternoon sipping coffee and talking to Andy about his amazing life.
Andy is a poised, composed, articulate man with a quick smile and an attentive countenance. It was a genuine pleasure to meet him, he had no rock star ego at all, which is a refreshing change from most of the rock legends I have interviewed — which have numbered well over one hundred over the years — including and especially the original Santana band. I first spoke with Carlos on the radio in 1976.
It struck me that in the middle of our conversation AndyÂ excused himself went up to a homeless woman and handed her some cash, he didnât notice that I noticed, he keeps his humble benevolence on the down low, he won a fan in me for life.
Vargas grew up in Watsonville California and still has deep roots there. He remembers always singing and putting together little shows, passing out tickets for family and friends. He was inspired years ago when he saw Michael Jackson perform on television at the now famous Motown 25th Anniversary celebration. âI remember watching Michael Jackson perform to Billie Jean and seeing the crowd go crazy. It got me excited and gave me the chills. Then and there I knew I wanted to do the same for people,â Vargas said.
âMy Grandmother owned a record store, Golden Records in Watsonville. When the place shut down we were able to keep a lot of the records, I was able to listen to almost every genre of music, and I loved it! I absorbed the music in many ways this experience informs my spirit to this very day.â
In high school Andy was an all-around athlete, he played football and baseball and excelled as a center fielder. It was in was in the back of his mind to go to college and play college ball, but the love of music was deeply rooted in his heart. He sang with various groups in high school, and maintains those same friendships to this very day.
Vargas continued with his music career throughout his adolescence and by the time he was 17 he landed his first recording contract with R.C.A. Records. Before the release of his album, Vargas auditioned to perform with Santana.
âSince I was singed to RCA and Clive Davis had a subsidiary company, I was asked to an open call audition by Clive. He was looking for something special for Santana, so I went in and gave it my best shot. Clive wasnât present but the legend Lou Adler was. They took me out on tour to see how I would do.â
What was supposed to be only a two-week tour of the east coast with the band turned out to be more than Vargas expected. After just three shows Santana and the bandâs conga player Raul Rekow invited Vargas to Santanaâs dressing room for a meeting.
âI think we just had a connection. I think it was the love for the music. Itâs the same type of love that I have for it still. Carlos excites me when he plays the guitar. He gets me going, and I think itâs an inspiration on both ends from guitars and vocals,â said Vargas.
âCarlos kind of just said, âHey youâre in. Youâre in the band.â It was surreal to me,â said Vargas who has been performing with Santana since 2000.
Along with what happens on stage, Carlos has become a mentor for Vargas, teaching him about music and life.
âI think he does this not just for myself, but for a lot of people. I think this is why people follow him and what he says because itâs not just what he says on stage, he lives it off stage,â said Vargas. He explained that some of those words of wisdom from Santana include âbeing in the momentâŚ living your word and celebrating life.â
Singing with such an iconic performer was intimidating for Vargas when he first joined the group, but his love for the music and performing is what helped him feel comfortable on stage.
âUltimately I just have a lot of fun. Iâm inspired by Carlosâ guitar, and I have a blast. So I think the fun kind of helps me hide a little bit of the intimidation,â said Vargas.
When he first joined Santana he was embraced and mentored by Maestro Conga player Raul Rekow who encouraged Andy and the rigors of the road and subsequent superstardom. Andy is visibly shaken as we share stories about Raul, as many are slow to recover from Raulâs untimely passing over a year ago.
He remembers Raul and his electric smile and how he attacked life with a passion and encouraged Andy to play each gig as if it was his very last, a sad and sobering reflection, which inspires Andy to take his art to it is highest levels.
He says many band members are his brothers as they travel the globe bringing joy, inspiration and positivity. What they do together is based on passion, each feeds off the otherâs energy.
While playing in arenas in front of tens of thousands, sometimes over one hundred thousand people, Andy says there seems to be a gap then an ocean of people, the people feel the love the band pumps out and the performers feel the love back, it is an incredible thing.
âWhen that happens and when we perform, I am 100% in the moment, there is no me there is no ego there is no rock stardom, itâs just us, immersed in the music and the people are absorbing it, it is changing them and they sending it back, there is nothing like it. I am so blessed to be a part of this incredible organization, thatâs why we like to say, âLiving the dream.â
âI guess my greatest concert experience was in Verona Italy, everything seemed to converge and I went off to the side of the stage and drank it all in, the moment was transcendent. Carlos Santana is a master at what he does, his music and legacy is historical and will stand the test of time. I am so honored to be a part of this.â
âI do not let the adulation of the rock star life affect me. I am the same Andy from Watsonville that I always have been, you canât let that sort of thing effect your self-image and art. I stay isolated, donât do big entourages and parties. When I am on the road I take my production and sometimes DJ equipment with me and work on new music. I am able, with the latest technology to replicate production quality work a few years ago, only available in studios.â
When he is not performing live on stage and giving audiences chills as a solo vocalist or lead singer for Santana, Andy is busy as a prolific DJ, song writer, and producer, crafting his own music style, which he calls, âSouleros.â Souleros is, âThe New Sound of Chicano Soul,â which is a mix of traditional Spanish/Latin ballads (Boleros) with R&B Soul = Souleros. He says âIts like Low Rider meets Maserati.â His music resonates, rising up from the barrio into the clubs and from the backyards to the parks.
Itâs clear with every rhythmic note that Andy is passionate about life and sharing the Souleros sound with the world. The underlying message of the music he says is, âLet go and let love.â
With first hand insight regarding the ability of music to transcend barriers and uplift the soul, it comes as no surprise that the popular singer launched The Andy Vargas Foundation to provide at-risk youth with life changing opportunities through learning about music and the music business. The program uses local and national mentors to educate, engage, and ignite the imaginations of students, to be motivated toward success by tapping into the power of music.
Students learn that perseverance is the key on lifeâs road toward happiness and success. Itâs an invaluable lesson that Andy Vargas learned some time ago and still shares with the world currently through his community outreach and songs.
Andy is very active on social media and is always available to interact with fans who soon become friends. Vargas is a multi-talented music force to be reckoned with, expect big things with his work with Santana and watch him blossom as he explores solo projects.
Edited by Mariam Salarian