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José Feliciano

Feliciano in 2007
Background information
Birth name José Montserrate Feliciano García
Born September 10, 1945 (1945-09-10) (age 64)
Origin Lares, Puerto Rico
Genres Latin Pop, Bolero, Acoustic
Years active 1966–Present

José Montserrate Feliciano García (born September 10, 1945) is a Puerto Rican singer, virtuoso guitarist and composer, known for many international hits including the 1970 holiday single, "Feliz Navidad". He was born permanently blind owing to congenital glaucoma.[1]



Feliciano was born in Lares, Puerto Rico, one of eleven children.[2] He was first exposed to music at age three. At five, his family moved to Spanish Harlem, New York City and, at age nine, he played on the Teatro Puerto Rico.[3] He started his musical life playing accordion until his grandfather gave him a guitar. He reportedly sat by himself in his room for up to 14 hours a day to listen to 1950s rock albums, classical guitarists such as Andrés Segovia, and jazz players such as Wes Montgomery. He later had classical lessons with Harold Morris who earlier had been a student with Segovia.[4]

At 17, he quit school to play in clubs, having his first professional, contracted performance in Detroit.


In 1963, after some live performances in pubs and clubs around the USA, especially in Greenwich Village, NY, where he played at the same time as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, he was signed at RCA Victor.[5] In 1964, he released his first single "Everybody Do the Click". Later, in 1965 and 1966, he also released his first albums The Voice and Guitar of Jose Feliciano and A Bag Full of Soul, two folk-pop-soul albums that showcased his talent on radio across the USA, where he was described as a "10 finger wizard". He also was invited to the Newport Jazz festival in 1964.

In 1966, he went to Mar del Plata, Argentina, to perform at the Festival de Mar del Plata. There, he impressed RCA Victor officials who told him to stay there to record an album in Spanish. They were not sure what they wanted to record, but Feliciano suggested they record bolero music. The result was two smash hits with the singles "Poquita Fe" ("Little Faith", a.k.a. "Sin Fe", or "Without Faith"), a song written by fellow Puerto Rican Bobby Capó, and "Usted" (the formal way to say "you" in Spanish).

A year later Feliciano was to perform in the United Kingdom, but authorities would not allow his guide dog into the country. The stringent quarantine measures of those days were intended to prevent the spread of rabies. Feliciano later wrote a song entitled "No Dogs Allowed", which told the story of his first visit to London.[6]

During his British visit, on July 16, 1967, Feliciano gave a live performance on the pirate radio stations Radio 227 and Radio 355, on board the MV Laissez Faire off the British coast, less than a month before the stations were due to be closed by the UK's Marine Broadcasting Offences Act.

After two more successful albums, Feliciano, now a household name all over Latin America, moved to Los Angeles. He got together with Rick Jarrard who was at the time also producing Nilsson & Jefferson Airplane. They recorded the The Doors' song "Light My Fire" in a Latin style and when released as a single, it reached #3 on the U.S. pop charts in late summer, 1968. Many subsequent recordings of "Light My Fire" by a multitude of artists took the arrangement from the Feliciano recording. He immediately became a sensation all across North America, selling millions of albums and followed up his success with another top 20 hit in the USA with his version of "Hi-Heel Sneakers", again recorded with a Latin feel. On the strength of this success he won two Grammy Awards for Best New Artist Of The Year and for Best Pop Song Of The Year in 1969.

In October 1968, at the height of protests against the Vietnam War, Feliciano was given the opportunity by Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Tiger Stadium in Detroit during Game 5 pregame ceremonies of the World Series. His highly personalized, slow, latin jazz performance proved highly controversial. As result of his unusual delivery, many radio stations refused to play his songs, and his career was stalled about three years. Even so, in an October, 2006 NPR broadcast, he expressed pride for opening the door for later reinterpretations of the national anthem. His World Series rendition, which features him accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar, was released as a single which charted for 5 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #50. Feliciano's "Star-Spangled Banner" took place 10 months before the more famous Jimi Hendrix rendition at Woodstock.


In 1970, he wrote and released an album of Christmas music, Felíz Navidad, which may be deemed to be his most famous recording. The title song has been covered by many artists and is now a traditional part of the musical landscape in the U.S, Canada and Latin America around Christmas time. Each year during the Christmas season, "Feliz Navidad" returns to U.S. airwaves, one of the most-played and most-downloaded radio songs and downloaded songs of the season. "Feliz Navidad" is also recognized by ASCAP as one of the 25 all-time most-played Christmas songs in the world.

In 1971, he traveled to Italy to participate in the Sanremo Music Festival, singing the song "Che sarà" in Italian, earning second place in that contest as well as a standing ovation by the Italian public. He later recorded the song, which became a well-known act in Italy, a great hit in half of Europe, including the Iron Curtain countries, as well as in Asia. Feliciano later recorded it in Spanish as "Qué Será", becoming a hit in all of Central and South America, and in English as "Shake a Hand", a big hit in Scandinavian countries.

He wrote and performed the theme song to the 1970s comedy series Chico and the Man, and played a guest role on that series as the cousin of Chico (Freddie Prinze), singer Pepe Fernando. In the 1970s, he acted and composed for TV series and movies including McMillan & Wife, Kung Fu episodes, the soundtrack of the movie Aaron Loves Angela in 1976, and Mackenna's Gold with Quincy Jones. He has guested on many albums by other artists, including Bill Withers's +'Justments, John Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll, Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark, Michael Nesmith's Tantamount to Treason, Natalie Cole's Everlasting and Gloria Estefan's Alma Caribena.

1980s and beyond

Feliciano holds the distinction of being one of the few singers to have enjoyed success both in Spanish language music and in English language rock and roll. He won five consecutive awards for best pop guitarist from Guitar Player magazine and was voted in jazz, classic and rock fields.[citation needed]

He received a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1987, and continued as a very popular singer during the 1980s. He had his hands cast on the famous Madame Tussauds Museum's Wall of Fame, and has a star in the Walk of Fame of his native Puerto Rico. He also had a great hit in 1987 in Austria with the song "The Sound of Vienna", number 1 for four weeks and recorded with the famous Vienna Symphony Orchestra. The Orchestra also performed with him live on national television at Danube Park in Vienna before more than 60,000 people. During the 1980s, record companies gave him space made only for the Latin market, and he recorded an impressive number of albums for that market, including the Motown albums Escenas de Amor and Me Enamoré, as well as others from RCA, EMI, and Capitol which added four more Grammys for best Latin performer. He recorded a duet song called "Por ella" with the most popular Mexican singer at the time, José José.

In 1995, Feliciano was honored by the City of New York, which re-named Public School 155 the Jose Feliciano Performing Arts School. In 1996, he had a short cameo role in the film Fargo.

Feliciano was also an inaugural member of the Independent Music Awards' judging panel to support independent artists.[7]

Feliciano performed the theme song, "Behind the Mask," for the TV series Queen of Swords in 2000. A promotional video sung in Spanish but never published is on youtube[1], and the full English version, never published, sung by Feliciano and the composers Spencer Proffer and Steve Plunkett is also on youtube[2].

In 2003 Guitarra Mía, a special tribute to Feliciano, was produced by the Banco Popular de Puerto Rico and aired in Puerto Rico and in cities with large Puerto Rican population in the United States. This television special (and its soundtrack) featured Feliciano and many Puerto Rican and international stars singing some of his most famous songs, along with his personal favorites from other artists. It was first aired in December 2003, just two days after his mother died unexpectedly from a heart attack; in an eerie coincidence, the special's last scenes featured her giving her son a standing ovation, recorded for the occasion a month before.

On December 6, 2006, Feliciano's new Spanish album, José Feliciano y amigos was released by Universal Records, featuring Feliciano joined in duets with many other Latin American stars including Luis Fonsi, Lupillo Rivera, Luciano Pereyra, Rudy Perez, Cristian Castro, Marc Anthony, Ramón Ayala, Alicia Villarreal, Ricardo Montaner, and Raúl di Blasio. A special edition was later released and featured Ana Gabriel and Gloria Estefan.

In 2007, Feliciano released an album called Soundtrack of My Life, the first English-language album composed and written by him. Feliciano is married to wife Susan; they have 3 children: daughter Melissa and sons Jonathan and Michael.

In 2009, after winning his 8th Grammy for the album Senor Bolero, he left Siente music and released two new English-language albums for digital download only from his personal websites, one dedicated to American Classics, including songs made famous by Frank Sinatra, and the other dedicated to an instrumental album in homage to jazz guitar legend Django Reinhardt who inspired Feliciano, and features Feliciano's song "Djangoisms."

Sense of humor

Besides his musical skills, Feliciano is known for his strong sense of humor. He constantly makes fun of people's reactions to his blindness, and has even played practical jokes on friends and family based on this. Once his then bass player, Ted Arnold, contrived to allow Feliciano to appear to be driving down a busy street, fooling the passing police. During a show he once said, "I was going to dedicate this song to Jackie Kennedy but I can't see her anywhere in the audience."

He has performed comedy sketches alongside Freddie Prinze, Sunshine Logroño, the staff of Despierta América and Verónica Castro, among others. He has also parodied fellow artists in his concerts, among them: Julio Iglesias, Raphael, the late Rocío Jurado and Isabel Pantoja. An occasional song at his Spanish concerts is a parody of Bobby Capó's song "El Bardo". While the Right Said Fred song "I'm Too Sexy" was popular in the early 1990s, Feliciano closed his English concerts with a parody of it.

His performance of "Old Turkey Buzzard" became a recurring bit on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2007, until Feliciano himself appeared on the show on October 16 of that year to perform a live rendition of the song.

In Mid-December 2009, a parody of Feliz Navidad, "The Illegal Alien Christmas Song," was created by radio producers and writers Matt Fox and A.J. Rice and was posted on the Web site for Human Events, a Washington-based conservative weekly publication. The parody, sung in English, played on the stereotype of Latino immigrants as heavy drinkers and that undocumented immigrants were going to "spread bubonic plague."

Feliciano released a statement on December 23 on his official web site:

"This song has always been a bridge to the cultures that are so dear to me, never as a vehicle for a political platform of racism and hate. It’s disgusting and my only wish that my song and I are distanced from the whole affair as soon as possible."[8]

In a statement to the Associated Press the same day, Jed Babbin, Human Events' site editor, apologized for "any offense that Mr. Feliciano may have taken from this parody" and removed it from the site.[9]


Hit Records/English

Year Single Chart positions
US Latin US Country UK
1968 "Light My Fire" 3 29 - - - 6
"Hi-Heel Sneakers" 25 44 31 - - -
"Hitchcock Railway" 77 - - - - -
"The Star Spangled Banner" 50 - - - - -
1969 "Hey! Baby!" 71 - - - - -
"My World Is Empty Without You" 87 - - - - -
"Marley Purt Drive" 70 - 33 - - -
"Rain" 76 - 19 - - -
"She's a Woman" 103 - - - - -
"And the Sun Will Shine" - - - - - 25
1970 "Destiny" 83 - 15 - - -
"Suzie Q" 84 - - - - -
1971 "I Only Want To Say" 122 - - - - -
1975 "Twilight Time" - - 45 - - -
"Chico and the Man" 96 - - - - -
1980 "I'm Comin' Home Again" - - 44 - - -
1982 "I Wanna Be Where You Are" - 63 - - - -
1983 "Let's Find Each Other Tonight" - - - - 64 -
1998 "Feliz Navidad" 70 - 18 - - -
2000 "Feliz Navidad"(re-entry) 105 - 12 29 - -

English / international

  • 1964 - The Voice and Guitar of Jose Feliciano
  • 1966 - A Bag Full of Soul
  • 1966 - Fantastic Feliciano
  • 1968 - Feliciano!
  • 1968 - Souled
  • 1969 - Feliciano / 10 To 23
  • 1969 - Alive Alive O!
  • 1970 - Fireworks
  • 1970 - Felíz Navidad
  • 1971 - Encore!
  • 1971 - Che sarà
  • 1971 - That the Spirit Needs
  • 1971 - Another Record
  • 1972 - Sings
  • 1972 - Memphis Menu
  • 1973 - Compartments
  • 1973 - Peter Stuyvesant presents José Feliciano in concert with the London Symphony Orchestra
  • 1974 - For My Love, Mother Music
  • 1974 - And The Feeling's Good
  • 1975 - Affirmation
  • 1975 - Just Wanna Rock and Roll
  • 1976 - Angela
  • 1977 - Sweet Soul Music
  • 1981 - José Feliciano
  • 1983 - Romance In The Night
  • 1989 - I'm Never Gonna Change
  • 1990 - Steppin' Out (Optimism Records)
  • 1996 - Present Tense
  • 1996 - On Second Thought
  • 2006 - Six-String Lady (the instrumental album)
  • 2007 - Soundtrax of My Life
  • 2009 - The Paris Concert (live)
  • 2009 - American Classics (only for digital download)
  • 2009 - Djangoisms (only for digital download)


  • 1966 El Sentimiento La Voz y la Guitarra
  • 1966 La Copa Rota
  • 1967 Sombra
  • 1967 ¡El Fantástico!
  • 1967 Mas Éxitos de José
  • 1968 Felicidades Con Lo Mejor de José Feliciano
  • 1968 Sin Luz
  • 1970 Feliz Navidad
  • 1971 En Mi Soledad - No Llores
  • 1971 José Feliciano Dos Cruces
  • 1971 José Feliciano January 71
  • 1971 José Feliciano Canta Otra
  • 1982 Escenas de Amor
  • 1983 Me Enamoré
  • 1984 Como Tú Quieres
  • 1985 Ya Soy Tuyo
  • 1986 Te Amaré
  • 1987 Tu Inmenso Amor
  • 1990 Niña
  • 1992 Latin Street '92
  • 1996 Americano
  • 1998 Señor Bolero
  • 2003 Señor Bolero 2
  • 2003 Guitarra Mía Tribute
  • 2004 A México, Con Amor
  • 2006 Jose Feliciano y amigos
  • 2007 Señor Bachata (He was awarded Grammys by both Naras and Laras for this album)
  • 2008 Con Mexico en el corazón


External links


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