José Feliciano – Puerto Rican Musician
José Feliciano was born in Lares, Puerto Rico, on 10 September 1945. Left permanently blind at birth as a result of congenital glaucoma, Feliciano rose above his adverse circumstances to become a celebrated musician who is widely recognized as the first Latin artist to make a breakthrough into the English music market. This multiple-award winning guitarist, singer and composer serves as an inspiration to many that, with determination, any obstacle can be overcome.
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As one of eleven children, José Feliciano was five years old when he moved with his family to Spanish Harlem in New York City. He started exploring his talent for music by playing accordion, until his grandfather gave him a guitar which cemented his musical future. He was inspired by jazz musicians like Wes Montgomery and classical guitarists such as Andres Segovia. At the age of 17, he quit school and started to play in clubs, giving his first contracted performance in Detroit.
After performing at the Festival de Mar Del Plata in Argentina in 1966, RCA Victor signed Feliciano up to record an album in Spanish. Two smash hit singles came out of that album, Poquita Fe (Little Faith) and Usted (the formal Spanish word for “you”) which was written by fellow Puerto Rican, Bobby Capo. A year later, when Feliciano was to perform in Great Britain, due to rabies restrictions his dog was refused entry into the country. Showing the sense of humor which endeared him to many, he later wrote the song No Dogs Allowed, as the tale of his first visit to London.
José Feliciano’s career went from strength to strength, with his Latin-style version of The Doors’ song Light My Fire reaching the #3 slot on the U.S. pop charts in 1968, elevating him into the American limelight. At the height of anti-Vietnam protests in 1968, he was asked to perform The Star-Spangled Banner at the World Series held at Tiger Stadium. His slow Latin jazz rendition of the anthem accompanied by his acoustic guitar, proved to be highly controversial and when released on a single it spent five weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
Feliciano’s Christmas music album, Feliz Navidad, recorded in 1970 is more than likely his most famous recording. It has been covered by many artists and is synonymous with Christmas celebrations throughout the U.S., Canada, Latin America and other parts of the world. He went on to perform at the Sanremo Music Festival in Italy in 1971, singing the song Che Sara in Italian, earning him second place in the contest and receiving a standing ovation from the Italian audience.
His many achievement have included writing theme songs for movies and acting in TV series and movies, as well as performing as guest artist on other artists’ albums, including Bill Withers, John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Michael Nesmith, Natalie Cole and Gloria Estefan. In 1987 José Feliciano was honored with a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On 6 December 2006, a Spanish album, José Feliciano y Amigos, was released featuring Feliciano performing duets with many well known Latin American stars. In 2007, Soundtrack of My Life, Feliciano’s first self-composed English album, was released and well received.
Although José Feliciano now lives in Connecticut with his wife Susan and three children, Melissa, Jonathan and Mikey, he has not forgotten his Puerto Rican roots and returns to Puerto Rico regularly to entertain the people of the land of his birth.