On Tuesday evening, I attended a Carlos Santana concert in San Francisco, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of the Supernatural album.
In a world where musical acts come and go quickly, there are a few acts that stand the test of time…The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Elton John, Billy Joel, to name a few, are all touring and playing music they wrote 20, 30, even 40 years ago. Some of the songs Santana played this week debuted at Woodstock half a century ago.
On a different front, the world is preparing to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth next year. We still wonder at the genius of J.S. Bach in the 270 years since his death, and of Frederick Chopin in the 170 years since his. The rhythms and riffs of African music are integrated into jazz and folk music across centuries and around the globe.
Yet, there’s been a multitude of artists whose music doesn’t last a decade, let alone three centuries.
What makes certain music by certain artists or composers timeless? We can consider composition and structure, instrumentation, or the fit between music and lyrics.
But in the end, the reason nearly 20,000 people sang along and cheered to tunes Carlos Santana had created decades ago is that these songs touched a chord. The rhythms and melodies are familiar; the lyrics evoke timeless emotions. And Santana’s message is clear: we can use the power of music to make the world a better place. Love and joy conquer fear.
That’s an effect that’s truly supernatural.
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