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Even in the Shadow of Carlos, Jorge Santana was a Musical Giant Among Musical Giants

The Mission community lost a beloved musical son who helped forge the Latin Rock sound worldwide. 

Jorge Santana, the lead guitarist for the highly popular Latin Rock band Malo, died of reported natural causes on May 14. He was 68.

The announcement sent shockwaves through the Mission and wherever Latin Rock lovers call home. Carlos Santana wrote about his brother’s passing the next day on his official Facebook page writing: “We take time to celebrate the magnificent spirit of our beloved brother Jorge. He transitioned unto the realm of light that cast no shadow. The eyes of my heart clearly see him right between our glorious and magnificent mother Josefina and our father Jose.” 

Jorge, the younger brother of Bay Area rock legend Carlos Santana, was still in high school when, in the late 1960s, he joined a horn-driven rhythm-and-blues band called The Fabulous Malibus, wrote Bobby Sanabria in a recent online tribute. 

He noted that the band renamed itself Malo and signed with Warner Brothers leading to four albums from 1972-74 — Malo, Dos, Evolution, and Ascención. Jorge’s guitar was a central feature of “Suavecito,” the lead single of Malo’s self-titled 1972 debut that is to this day a treasured, anthem-like song among Chicanos and Latinos.

Jorge was born in Jalisco, Mexico, in 1951, the youngest of the three Santana brothers who would relocate to San Francisco with their family in the 1960s. He would also follow in his older brother’s footsteps when he picked up the guitar at age 14.

Jorge would later appear onstage and on recordings as a special guest of the NYC-based Fania All-Stars, as well as recording his own solo albums — “Jorge Santana” and “It’s All About Love.” He would remain a Bay Area resident for much of his life living in Mill Valley and Walnut Creek, reported CBS News.

While Jorge would drop out of music altogether for a time during the 1980s, he would be a regular onstage guest with his brother Carlos during the 1990s and into the following decade. The pair recorded an album entitled The Santana Brothers in 1994, according to CBS News.

Over the years, Jorge made guest appearances in the Mission at musical concerts and dances, like the Encuentro del Canto Popular that served as a fundraiser for El Tecolote newspaper.

As news of Jorge’s death emerged, loyal fans rushed to pay tribute online.

“Rest in Peace Jorge Santana, the Angels needed another guitarist to carry their tunes. Gracias por la música y Suavecito,” Miguel Rodriguez wrote.

Jorge is survived by daughter Michelle (“Misha”), son Anthony, two brothers Tony and Carlos, and four sisters Irma, Maria, Lety, and Laura. 

Rest in peace Jorge. You will long be remembered as a musical giant among musical giants.

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