Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Santana

Havana Moon

Written and first recorded by Chuck Berry (B-side 1956).
Hit album version by Santana (1983).

From the wiki: “‘Havana Moon’ was written and first recorded by Chuck Berry in 1956, and released as the B-side to the single ‘You Can’t Catch Me‘. Berry has described Nat ‘King’ Cole as his favorite ballad singer — Berry admired Cole’s perfect diction and elegant delivery. According to Rolling Stone magazine:

Berry’s story of a Cuban woman missing an American woman took its inspiration from playing Nat King Cole’s ‘Calypso Blues’ when Berry was still slugging it out at St. Louis’ Cosmopolitan Club at a time when Latin rhythms were popular. Berry had always admired Cole’s ‘perfect diction’ and delivery (‘He was better than ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ [Frank Sinatra],’ Berry had opined more than once), and decided to write his own song along the same lines after a gigging in New York City [in the mid-1950s], where he had met Cubans for the first time. ‘It is the differences in people that I think gives me a tremendous imagination to create a story for developing a lyric,’ he wrote in his autobiography. ‘I had read, seen or heard in some respect all the situations in the Havana story. Certainly, missing the boat and surely missing the girl had been experienced many times by me.’


Written and first recorded (as “Jin-Go-Lo-Ba”) by Babatunde Olatunji (1960).
Hit album version by Santana (1969).

From the wiki: “‘Jin-Go-Lo-Ba’ was the most popular song on the Drums of Passion album released in 1960 by Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olatunji, unquestionably the first recording to popularize African music in the West. The simple exchange between the mother drum (iya ilu) and the baby drum (omele) became Babatunde’s signature song. When Santana later covered the song, in 1969, and used it as the B-side to ‘Evil Ways‘, the writing credit was mangled. Initial pressings of the Santana album and the 45 erroneously listed Aaron Copland as the ‘Jingo’ composer! It turns out Copland did compose a song titled ‘Jingo’ – just not this one.”

Gypsy Woman

First recorded by The Impressions (US #20/R&B #1 1961).
Other hit versions by Brian Hyland (US #3/UK #42 1970), Santana (US #31 1990).

From the wiki: “‘Gypsy Woman’ was written by Curtis Mayfield and was first recorded by his group The Impressions, the group’s first single following the departure of lead singer Jerry Butler. The recording reached #2 on the R&B chart and #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961.

“In 1970, Brian Hyland recorded a successful Del Shannon-produced cover version which peaked at #3 on the Hot 100. Santana also covered ‘Gypsy Woman’, in 1990 when its promotional single peaked at #31 on the Hot 100.”

Evil Ways

First recorded by Willie Bobo (1968).
Also recorded by The Village Callers (1968).
Hit version by Santana (US #9 1969).

From the wiki: “‘Evil Ways’ was made famous by Santana from their 1969 album, Santana. It was written by Clarence ‘Sonny’ Henry and originally recorded by Jazz percussionist Willie Bobo on his 1967 album, Bobo Motion.

“A year before Santana’s 1969 recording, ‘Evil Ways’ was also recorded by the band The Village Callers – considered to be one of the best bands in East Los Angeles and among the first bands to perform with Latin percussion roots in the ‘Eastside Sound’ of the early to mid-60s – for the album The Village Callers Live, recorded May 5, 1968 at the Plush Bunny nightclub in Pico Rivera, CA. So, it could be argued that the Callers’ recording – which received heavy radio airplay in the Bay Area – was what inspired Santana to record their arrangement of the song.

“Recorded by Santana in May 1969, ‘Evil Ways’, the second single from the group’s debut album, Santana, was released in December 1969 and would quickly become Santana’s first Top-40 and first Top-10 hit in the U.S. ”

Gypsy Queen

Written and first recorded by Gabor Szabo (1966).
Hit album version by Santana (1970).

From the wiki: “Hungarian jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo (‘Breezin’‘) wrote and recorded ‘Gypsy Queen’ for his 1966 album Spellbinder. Szabo had escaped Communist Hungary in 1956 for the US, where he entered the Berklee School of Music, Boston. By 1958, Szabo had been invited to perform at the prestigious Newport Jazz Festival.

“Szabo incorporated elements of folk music from his native Hungary, from Gypsy and Roma influences, into his guitar playing, and his guitar style would strongly influence Carlos Santana’s work. (Santana’s 2012 instrumental album Shape Shifter includes a song titled “Mr. Szabo”, played in tribute in the style of Szabo).


Written and first recorded by Russ Ballard (1976).
Also recorded by Nona Hendryx (1977).
Hit version by Santana (US #17/#2 Rock/SA #12 1981).

From the wiki: “Russ Ballard came to prominence as the lead singer and guitarist for the band Argent (‘Hold Your Head Up’ 1972), but became better known by the late 1970s as a songwriter and producer. His compositions for other artists during the 1970s and 1980s included ‘Liar’ (Three Dog Night, 1971), ‘Since You Been Gone’ (Head East, 1978; Rainbow, 1979), ‘New York Groove’ (Ace Frehley, 1978), ‘You Can Do Magic’ (America, 1982), ‘God Gave Rock and Roll to You’ (Kiss, 1992), and ‘Winning’, a 1981 hit for Santana that Ballard first recorded in 1976 for his album Winning.

“Prior to Santana’s cover, former LaBelle singer, Nona Hendryx, covered ‘Winning’ in 1977 for her solo debut album.

“Santana promotional single, for the album Zebop!, peaked at #17 in 1981 on the Hot 100 but reached #2 on the Mainstream Rock Charts. Santana’s arrangement also reached #12 in South Africa.”

Oye Como Va

Written and first recorded by Tito Puente & His Orchestra (1963).
Inspired by “Chanchullo” by Israel “Cachao” Lopez (1937).
Hit version by Santana (US #13/MOR #11/R&B #32/CAN #7/MEX #9/AUS #13/GER #29 1971).
Also recorded by Natalie Cole (2013).

From the wiki: “‘Oye Como Va’ is a song written by Latin Jazz and Mambo musician Tito Puente in 1963. The fact that the phrase ‘Oye como va’ is the title of the song and is sung somewhat separately from the phrase ‘mi ritmo’ makes for its interpretation as ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ However, the first sentence is actually ‘Oye como va mi ritmo,’ meaning ‘Listen to how my rhythm goes.’ Israel ‘Cachao’ López’s 1937 recording, ‘Rareza de Melitón’ (later changed to ‘Chanchullo’), inspired Tito Puente’s signature tune. Puente had previously recorded ‘Chanchullo’ in 1959, for his album Mucho cha cha.

Hold On

Written and first recorded by Ian Thomas (CAN #28 1981).
Other hit version by Santana (US #15/MOR #34/CAN #4/AUS #64/NZ #31/NETH #22 1982).

From the wiki: “‘Hold On’ is a song written and first recorded by the Canadian singer and songwriter Ian Thomas, on his 1981 album The Runner.

“Thomas was a successful Rock ‘n roll musician in Canada, at the height of his solo career during the 1970s, with his most memorable hit being 1973’s ‘Painted Ladies’ (US #34/CAN #4). Thomas has also done film scoring for about a dozen movies and television shows. Before breaking through with ‘Painted Ladies’, he was a producer at the CBC. Before that, he was part of the Folk music group Tranquility Base.

No One to Depend On

Co-written and first recorded (as “Spanish Grease”) by Willie Bobo (1965).
Hit version by Santana (US #36 1971).

From the wiki: “The main melody and theme of Santana’s ‘No One to Depend One’ is taken from Willie Bobo’s 1965 recording ‘Spanish Grease’.

“Bobo (born William Correa) grew up in Spanish Harlem, New York City. He made his name in Latin Jazz, specifically Afro-Cuban jazz, in the 1960s and ’70s, with the timbales becoming his favoured instrument. He met Mongo Santamaría shortly after his arrival in New York and studied with him while acting as his translator, and later at the age of 19 joined Tito Puente for four years. The nickname ‘Bobo’ is said to have been bestowed on him by the jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams in the early 1950s.

Game of Love

Originally recorded by Santana featuring Tina Turner (2002) but unreleased until 2007.
Hit version by Santana featuring Michelle Branch (US #5/UK #16/CAN #4 2002).

From the wiki: “Tina Turner originally recorded ‘Game of Love’ for Santana. However, this version remained unreleased until 2007 when it was featured on the album Ultimate Santana. The Michelle Branch recording was released as single in 2002, It won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals’, as well as peaking at #5 in on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.”

Black Magic Woman

Written by Peter Green and first recorded by Fleetwood Mac (UK #37 1968).
Other hit version by Santana (US #4/CAN #4/AUS #15/GER #14 1970).

From the wiki: “‘Black Magic Woman’ was written by Peter Green of Fleetwod Mac and appeared as a Fleetwood Mac single in various countries in 1968, peaking at #37 on the UK Singles chart; subsequently appearing on the 1969 Fleetwood Mac compilation albums English Rose (US) and The Pious Bird of Good Omen (UK).

“The song became a fairly popular Blues-Rock hit for Fleetwood Mac, being featured by the group in live set-lists even after Green had left the band, the lead often sung by Danny Kirwan. And, during concerts in the early 1970s, ‘Black Magic Woman’ would form the basis for long mid-concert Blues jams by Fleetwood Mac. The song would often be introduced by a band member reminding the audience that it was a Fleetwood Mac song before it became such a big hit for Santana.