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"Smooth" Saturday: 20 years ago, Rob Thomas made it real, and we never forgot about it



Man, it was a hot one 20 years ago this Saturday: That’s when “Smooth” — by Santana featuring Rob Thomas — was first released. 

The song topped the charts for 12 weeks, won three Grammys, and has been declared the second most-successful song of all time by Billboard, behind Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.”  It also changed everything for Rob Thomas, who, back in 1999, was “just” the lead singer of the best-selling band Matchbox Twenty.

“Before that, we had sold, like, 15 million records and thought that we were kind of a big deal,” Rob tells ABC Radio. “And then, ever since — there’s, like, pre-and-post ‘Smooth.’  So if I go anywhere and somebody says ‘Oh, I love that song’…I know what song they’re talking about.”

Rob Thomas co-wrote the song with Itaal Shur for Santana’s album Supernatural, but he says, “I didn’t even know it was going to be a single.” Until one day in New York City when a car full of girls drove by him, blaring “Smooth.”

He laughs, “I called my wife and I was like, ‘Honey, I think they put it out on the radio!'”

In the last 20 years, “Smooth” has become an Internet meme, and also a frequent target of abuse.  But Rob doesn’t really care.

That song is up for grabs now,” he muses. “It was like this cultural moment in a song, and so it became bigger than me.”

“I don’t think is the best song that I’ve written. It’s not the best one that Carlos has done. It was just this perfect storm: the right song, the right time, the right moment, the right album,” says Rob. “I think it just has a life of its own now. I don’t take it too seriously.”

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