Guitarist Jorge Santana, the younger brother of Carlos Santana and whose guitar riffs on the band Malo’s 1972 hit “Suavecito” transformed the song into a Chicano anthem, has died. Carlos Santana announced his brother’s death on his Facebook page Friday. He was 68. “We take time to celebrate the magnificent spirit of our beloved brother, Jorge,” Carlos Santana wrote.
“He transitioned unto the realm of light that cast no shadow the eyes of my heart clearly see him right in between our glorious and magnificent mother Josefina and our father Jose.” Jorge Santana died Thursday of natural causes, the family said.
Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Jorge Santana began playing guitar following his brother’s footsteps. He joined a San Francisco-based band that would later become Malo, which means “bad” in Spanish. According to band legend, the group got its name after the mother of its lead signer told them, “todos ustedes son malos,” translating into English, “all of you are bad.” Their 1972 hit “Suavecito,” a tune released during the apex of the Chicano Movement, became a staple for Mexican American cookouts, weddings and quinceaneras for generations throughout the American Southwest.
Its laid-back pace and bilingual lyrics came to signify Southern California. The song remains one of the most requested on the Art Laboe Connection, a syndicated-oldies show out of Palm Springs, California, where D.J. Laboe, 94, allows family members of loved ones in prison send messages through dedications. Malo made three albums before a highly publicized breakup.
Santana later played with the New York-based salsa collective Fania All-Stars. He was one of the few Mexican Americans in a project that included Puerto Ricans and Cuban Americans. Santana would embark on a solo career. He joined his brother, Carlos, on tour in 1993.
See Santana’s post honoring his brother below.