“Born Again Woman” – sung by Santana Former Lead Singer – Interview with Pastor Leon Patillo
Staff Writer, Research Assistant & Interviewer: Ellen St. Peter
Editing done by: Curtis R. Bizelli
Well known for his soothing vocals on “Black Magic Woman,” Leon Patillo has taken his creative musical talent and merged it with spreading the word of Gospel. When Magazine’s Lead Interviewer, Ellen St. Peter was fortunate enough to sit down and chat with Patillo about his life’s journey. Leon Patillo worked with the groups Funkadelic, Martha Reeves, and the Vandellas and started his own group called the Creation, which was signed to Atlantic records. During this time he became aware of amazing guitarist Carlos Santana who had founded his band Santana. In 1973 Carlos Santana having become aware of Leon Patillo requested to have a meeting with him for an audition. Leon, still living in the San Francisco Bay area didn’t hesitate to come to Los Angeles to meet with Carlos. The two connected musically very quickly and a few days later the call came to be in the group; leading to Leon’s first major performance in front of thousands of people at a festival. He would be part of three albums with the band Santana before leaving.
When Magazine: How did the lead singer of Santana, who sang, “Black Magic Woman” become interested in music [in the first place] and then find his way to becoming a pastor?
PATILLO: When I started school the teacher had a cardboard representation of the piano keys. One day, she started playing the live piano and I played along on the cardboard one exactly like she was doing. This led her to tell my mother “he is musical and needs to start taking piano lessons.”
Next thing I knew there was a piano being moved into our house in San Francisco. From about the age of five to fourteen, I took piano lessons regularly and was attracted naturally to the piano. Soon I was singing along and creating songs all at this young age.
Patillo’s father was a Methodist, and his mother a Baptist. He attended three types of churches including Baptist, Catholic and Methodist. Patillo spent most of his time at the Baptist church where he was also the keyboardist and had assisted with the youth choir.
Leon remarks, “Around fourteen I wanted to start impressing the girls. I would write songs to see if they would give me a reaction of appreciation.”
WM: What triggered the spirit of change in you?
PATILLO: The moment of asking God into my life came awhile before I left Santana as the lead singer and keyboardist. There was a girl I was interested in at the time whose brother was a strong believer. The brother had gently and sincerely kept at me for months to make the change in my life to accept the Lord. At the same time, I felt that all the fame, traveling around the world and fortune of being in a hit band was great, however something was still missing. I had begun to question what could be missing, and the answer I found was The Lord which is now the center of my life.
One night in 1974 after having gone to Bible Study and listening to talks about the flesh and the spirit, he made the deep decision to accept Jesus Christ into his life forever. Soon he was preaching the word of God to others while still touring with Santana. After finishing that tour Patillo along with close friends rented out The Roxy (Sunset Strip’s infamous night club) and hosted Gospel nights they called, “Jesus at the Roxy.”
Patillo praised the Lord with Smokey Robinson and Donna Summer along with many other big celebrities and musicians. They started with one show, then soon burst into two shows a night on Saturday and Sunday to a full house. This launched Leon into believing his calling was to have a solo path to mix his songwriting with a spiritual message. What is Leon Patillo doing now? Leon went through a two year Bible Study course and was later ordained by Chuck Smith. Since 1999, Patillo has been part of a motivational speaking series called “Get Motivated” where he performs songs and inspirational speeches. Others involved in this inspiring series have been past United States Presidents, George Foreman, and Colin Powell. Leon has recently completed two albums, Live Experience 2 and Breathe On Me. Leon’s aim is that, “Each Song will hopefully speak to something you’re going through, for the need to seek and accept forgiveness when you’ve done something wrong or to getting up and out of the procrastination mode. It’s a spiritual workout of sorts where each song was written on my knees.” The latter album took three years, but is a healing experience for so many now. Since 1979, he has recorded around twenty CD’s on his own as an independent artist.
WM: How do you write songs and what are you currently working on?
PATILLO: Reading scripture where inspiration comes for songs. Due to demands I have recently digitally re-mastered five of my previous albums to share with others. Re-entry is my newest album, which was an artistic creation with my son, Noel. We put together our talents in order to create a combination of an “old school” and “new school” musical vibe. We both hope to bridge the gap between the generations and bring families closer together.
WM: What church are you currently the Pastor of and where is it located?
PATILLO: My lovely wife Renee and I started the Rock House Church in Long Beach, which has just past the one-year mark. We gather at 10:00 A.M Sundays at the Long Beach Event Center, located at 4101 E. Willow Street, Long Beach, CA, 90815, where we “Rock” the house with music, unconditional love and faith. Rock House Non-denominational Church has a vision to have a balanced, well-rounded physical, financial, mental and socially Christian membership.
WM: What type of people do you find most rewarding to minister to?
PATILLO: People who come to the church I’m pastor of now. These weekly routine people have a depth of intimacy for me to minister with which I’m enjoying the most right now. The basis of my ministry is to portray my music in a way that gives people more hope and a better outlook for what is to come.
To watch Pastor Patillo is to witness God’s blessings in action through his gift of music and his positive upbeat personality anchored in the words of the Bible too.
Feeling the Lord with him he created the song, “We Must Believe.” Which is a favorite song of his to perform and the message Leon Patillo (the Pastor) is sending out to everyone. In this world filled with choices he is a refreshing relief to witness. Praise God.
© When Magazine
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