When you grow up a classic-rock fan, Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” is one of those songs that just sorta seeps into your bones.
My favorite part has always been the hot double-time Latin jam at the end, which sounds like the titular black magic woman has grown peeved and is going upside the narrator’s head with some fiery sun-baked Aztec hoodoo.
For a while I thought of that section simply as “the hot double-time Latin jam at the end.”
I was probably a freshman in high school, maybe a sophomore, when I bought a secondhand copy of the Abraxas album and discovered that the jam had a name — “Gypsy Queen” — and a composer — Gabor Szabo, the Hungarian jazz guitarist.
(To Carlos Santana’s credit, the song is correctly titled and credited on the LP. He didn’t simply steal the best licks and claim the song for his own, as some musicians would have.)
Today, for the first time, I went to YouTube and actually listened to Gabor Szabo’s original version of “Gypsy Queen.”
I think Carlos and band might have done Szabo a favor. The original version is occasionally a vehicle for some fast picking, but it doesn’t take off like the Santana version does.
Put another way: The Szabo version sounds like a hot Saturday night at the country club. The Santana version sounds like an exorcism.
Of course, now that I have my diddley bow up and running, any song is grist for the mill.
So tonight I present my tribute to “Gypsy Queen,” and to that other song that always seems to get lumped in with it.
I leave it to you, the listener, to mentally fill in the conga y timbales.