From Santana to 'Hosanna!'

Thursday, July 23, 2015
James L. Lambert - Guest Columnist

Leon Patillo's passion for music hasn't diminished over the years – in fact, it's only grown since coming to Christ, who is now the passion of his life.

Leon Patillo portraitLeon was born and raised in the historic Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco. He spent his formative years in the district, eventually graduating from George Washington High School. But one of his grammar school teachers was to have a profound effect on him – a teacher who sensed that the young boy had a gift for music and encouraged him to cultivate it.

Over the years, Leon's passion for music remained unabated. Even after attending San Francisco City College and working in the accounting services industry, he still felt music's pull. During that time he mastered a variety of instruments and developed a passion for songwriting.

Leon moved to Los Angeles in 1970, where he and his group (Leon's Creation) attempted to break into the music industry. In early 1973, Carlos Santana was searching for a lead singer for his rock group – Santana. Marcus, a mutual friend, gave Carlos a copy of one of Leon's taped recordings. Carlos immediately recognized the young talent, invited Leon to his home in Mill Valley, and offered him the job as the group's lead singer.

Meeting Jesus

About the same time, Leon started dating a girl from his old neighborhood. Her brother, Richard, had recently become a follower of Christ and experienced a dramatic change in his life. Richard felt compelled to share his newfound faith with the 27-year-old musician. In fact, every time Leon came over to his girlfriend's home, Richard tracked him down to share his faith. If Richard met Leon at the front door, Leon would try the back door – and still, Richard would appear.  Leon even tried just staying in his car when he came over to pick up his girlfriend, but Richard would always find him!

Finally, after eight months, the young musician decided to accept Richard's invitation to attend a men's Bible study being held at a local coffeehouse on Haight Street. Before Richard and Leon separated that day – July 4,1974 – Leon agreed to commit his life to Christ. Leon's decision would not only have a profound effect on his personal life, but it would also significantly affect his future in music.

After coming to Christ, Leon continued to sing for Santana. Some of the members of the famous rock group were actually relieved to hear the news of Leon's commitment to Christ. A dedicated pot-smoker, the lead singer was perceived by many around him as being a little too wild, and they thought perhaps this would tone him down.

Another figure in Leon's past he remains grateful for is Danny Di Angelo, a young Assembly of God minister. After being exposed to so many lifestyles and philosophies during the culturally tumultuous years in San Francisco, the young musician needed much guidance and mentoring – and Di Angelo provided that.

Singing for Jesus

Towards the end of the decade, Leon made the decision to part ways with Santana. It was around that time that he felt the call to pursue a path to share his faith using his giftedness in music and songwriting. His first recording label was the Calvary Chapel (Costa Mesa, CA)-inspired recording company Maranatha Music, through which he released the album "Dance Children Dance."

His first album was so well received that Word Records (based in Waco, Texas) offered him a contract that allowed his music to be available around the world. Over the next 10 years, Leon released a series of successful albums on that label. It was also at this time that the Christian artist began touring and performing in different arenas around the world. He even had a regular TV show ("Leon and Friends") on the TBN network.

Serving for Jesus

By the late 1990s, Leon had expanded his ministry to include motivational seminars as well as appearances at churches, festivals, and special functions with a variety of guest speakers such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former First Lady Laura Bush, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. During the last few years, Leon started a non-profit youth foundation: Leon S.I.N.G. (Sow Into Next Generation), the goal of which is to bring positive inspiration to a most negatively influenced generation. He does this by reaching out to youth in a variety of venues (schools, churches, youth groups, etc.) that are afforded to him.

Certainly Leon has experienced how the inspiring words of Christ influenced his life. He also knows how the persistence of one friend resulted in changing his life forever. He has seen how vital a mentor can be – someone like his long-time friend, Danny Di Angelo. Perhaps this is why it's so easy for Leon to reach out and minister to America's youth today at this time when it is so critically needed.

I SURRENDER (Leon Patillo)

Lambert, JamesJames L. Lambert, an occasional contributor to OneNewsNow, is author of "16 Amazing Stories of Divine Intervention." Leon Patillo can be contacted through his website:

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