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Reality Check

The rock 'n' roll wife has always been a martyr figure of sorts. She raises the children while her husband's on tour, endures his infidelities, supports his successes, consoles his failures, and usually ends up a mere footnote in her famous husband's biography. Unless, of course, she writes her own...
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The rock 'n' roll wife has always been a martyr figure of sorts. She raises the children while her husband's on tour, endures his infidelities, supports his successes, consoles his failures, and usually ends up a mere footnote in her famous husband's biography.

Unless, of course, she writes her own.

Deborah Santana has been surrounded by stars most of her life. Her father, Saunders King, was a revered blues musician whom B.B. King cited as an influence. Her first boyfriend was Sly Stone. And for the past 31 years, she's been married to multi-Grammy-winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Carlos Santana.

But her memoir, The Space Between the Stars: My Journey to an Open Heart (Ballantine Books), doesn't detail a rock 'n' roll fantasy so much as a gritty, real-life journey -- one that includes abortions, drug use, physical abuse, and extramarital affairs, but which ultimately reaches a place of spiritual peace and understanding.

"I'd always wanted to do a longer project than just writing Santana newsletters and answering fan mail," says Deborah, who has served as manager for the Santana band since 1994. "My intention in writing The Space Between the Stars was to say, ÔYes, all of you know Carlos Santana, and all of you see me sometimes, but you don't even notice me.' I'm basically an unseen entity there."

Some passages in the book, like the conversation she has on an early date with Carlos, where he reveals he was afraid she would think he was a "dork," are light-hearted and warm, even if Carlos remembers that night differently.

"I wasn't worried that I was a dork," Carlos insists. "I thought she was going to be a dork. I was cool. She was the one that was like, dorky. I never even heard the word 'dork' until she brought it up."

But the book delves into darkness, too, as Deborah reveals that she lost her virginity to Sly Stone while under the influence of LSD, became pregnant with his child, and had an abortion. She endured a period of physical and mental abuse from the flashy funk-rock god, who degenerates into a crazed man with cocaine all over his face in the space of about 35 pages. In one scene, Stone asks for his drug bag, and when Deborah doesn't deliver fast enough, he backhands her while wearing a large pinky ring and laughs when she runs away crying.

"Looking back on my time with Sly, of course I looked back with total remorse and a feeling of horror that I had lived through what I had lived through," says Deborah. "So I had to come to a place of healing."

Deborah was still recovering from her relationship with Stone when she met Carlos Santana in 1972. And while she had insisted on dating Stone for a few months before having sex with him, she found herself getting intimate with Carlos much sooner.

"Carlos has a very gentle spirit," Deborah explains. "With Sly, I'd never been in love before. It was more of an infatuation. With Carlos, there was a depth there."

Even so, the couple's marriage in 1974 was later tested by secrets and betrayals. The year they wed, the couple was following the meditation guru Sri Chinmoy, and Deborah became pregnant and then, on the guru's advice, had an abortion. Carlos was on tour at the time, and didn't learn of the pregnancy until months later. Carlos had a string of affairs throughout the '70s and early '80s, and Deborah contemplated leaving him.

Throughout her memoir, Deborah reveals personal things not only about herself, but about Carlos, too, including the fact that he was molested as a child. But Carlos doesn't disapprove of his wife sharing his secrets with the world.

"I don't feel that Deborah did what she did because of gossip or scandal or trash-for-cash," says Carlos. "She did it because, basically, it's not fiction, it's what happened. But also to show other women that if it's not happening, you don't have to stick to it."

Deborah did stick with Carlos, though, forgiving him for his affairs and holding their family of five together (the couple has three children, Salvador, Stella, and Angelica).

"I made the choice that I thought was the best, because I really felt we had a soul connection," says Deborah. "I always really believed that, but I often second-guessed myself, because the pain of having someone that you love sleep with someone else is psychically deep."

Carlos struggled with his sexual desires, but ultimately decided that nothing was more important than being with Deborah. "I had the willingness to change, and to prove to her that my compulsions had nothing to do with her," says Carlos. "It had to do with my lack of spiritual growth. Most men think that when you're aroused, you don't have any control over it. That's not true."

And while Carlos says he's reached a point where he has "no attraction to any other body," he admits the process "took a while."

"I don't know if it's because I was molested, and the jolt that you get from the first sensual contact . . . it's almost like, if somebody kidnaps you when you're a child and they shoot heroin in you, you're in horror, but at the same time, it feels good," Carlos says. "All of those things create a kind of churning, where you feel like a paper boat on the ocean, and you're rocking back and forth with these waves of emotion. But then I realized that I wasn't the paper boat. I'm actually the ocean, and I can control it, and offer it to Deborah."

And after 31 years, Carlos says he's more in love with Deborah than ever. "I'm very grateful to her that she taught me that I was the light, not the shadow. I have many blessings, but the best one is just to be her friend. She's a wonderful artist, in her own right."

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