The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum


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John Popper inducts Santana

"I'm really honored to be here tonight to do this.  I'm determined to wing it, because that's what improvisation is all about.  I'm a player.  I play improvised music.  And when you improvise, you really take on a discipline like a samurai - that's the way we always look at it.  It requires a facility with your instrument, much like twirling your samurai sword or something, and you also have to be very in touch with what you hope is an inner piece, but an inner something.  You have to be in touch and open to things that your listening to, and you have to be always listening, and anticipating the jam as best you can, and improvising that way.  What we're talking about here is a master samurai.  I want to tell you about the day Miles Davis died.  We were at - Blues Traveler was at a gig, and so was Santana, and Bill Graham, who was our manager at the time, arranged for Carlos to sit in with us; we did a 23-minute jam of a song of ours.  And for me and my bandmates, it was like our graduation, because we stood toe-to-toe with the champ.  It was kind of fun.  I mean, I remember, there were like four things we listened to when we were younger, when we'd get stoned, and we'd listen to Jimi Hendrix, or we'd listen to John Coltrane, we listened to P-Funk, and then there was Carlos.  You listen to "Oy Yo Caravan," [?] you see God.  I mean, I got to play with God.  It was kind of cool.  That was the last day I saw Bill alive, actually, and I remember I came of stage, and I said, "My God, I got to play with Carlos Santana," and I was freaking out, and he looked really kind of satisfied, and he said, "You know, I remember when Carlos got to interact with Muddy Waters, and he was saying the exact same stuff you are."  And I felt like I was really part of a tradition.  You know, Bill isn't around anymore, and I miss him a lot, but I feel like we're part of a tradition, you know.  And I think that there's a prediction out there that I think is kind of true, that the entire Western hemisphere is going to start gravitating towards one kind of music, from Canada to Chile, and I think it was Santana and his band that really saw this coming before anybody, and I think he was the first player in rock and roll to really kind of utilize that.  And I'm just very honored to be here tonight, to help us all induct a samurai and a shogun. "