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Carlos Santana Promised To ‘Take The War Paint Off’ When He Met The President

Carlos Santana
Pool, Getty Images

Back in December, Carlos Santana was give the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor for his career achievements. In a new interview, he says that, although he did his best to not stir up trouble when meeting President Obama, he couldn’t resist himself.

“I made a promise to everyone around me that I would behave myself and that I would take the war paint off,” he told Rolling Stone. “That’s because I did some concerts with the Black Panthers and so there’s a part of me that wants to question certain things with a lot of confidence. He’s the president because he promised, the first and second time he ran, that he would stop the war. He promised to spend more money on education than incarceration, which he has yet to do.”

But a conversation with a legendary musician and activist helped change his mind a little bit. “I was telling this to my brother and mentor Harry Belafonte,” he added. “I said to him, ‘Everyone is telling me to take my war paint off.’ He looked at me, closed his eyes and said, ‘Don’t take it all off.’”

After the show, when he finally got to meet the President and First Lady, he spoke to them not of a matter of policy, but about why his music connects with so many people. He continued, “I said to them, ‘It felt so good when everyone got up when they played my music. You know why that happens? That’s because we play black music for white people.’ They were like, ‘Oh Lord, I hope we aren’t on TV.’ But it does need to be said. That’s what we do, and it goes back to Elvis Presley coming out of Tupelo. We play black music for white people.”

Last week, Santana began a co-headlining tour with Rod Stewart that will run through August. Earlier this month, he released ‘Corazon,’ a tribute to his Latin heritage.

Next: Top 10 Santana Songs

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