In 2005, legendary musician José Feliciano sat down with Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa. The final result was one of the most intimate radio conversations in the program’s history. If you didn’t know it before, you should know that Feliciano is a great musician. Inspired by Flamenco guitarist Andres Segovia, Feliciano emerged just as the classical guitar was finally being recognized as an instrument of great artistic dimension. But it took time for Feliciano to be recognized in his own country.
Born blind in Puerto Rico in 1945, Feliciano was one of eleven boys. Unable to compete in the physical sports of his brothers, he took up the guitar beginning at age three. By age five, the family moved to New York. He learned the concertina, but soon took up guitar again, listening to records and learning by ear. He would spend as much as 14 hours a day on his guitar. By the age of 17, he began playing clubs.
At a concert in Argentina, promoters convinced Feliciano to stay a little longer and to make a record. In 1966, his old-style Boleros became an international hit throughout the Spanish-speaking world. The success was credited to Feliciano’s style of taking known, old song and adding fresh arrangements, energy and musical twists. Two Spanish albums quickly followed.
By the time he was 23, Feliciano had earned five Grammy nominations. His 1968 hit “Light My Fire,” brought him an English-language audience. And more work went his way, including the theme song for the television show “Chico and the The Man.”
But by far, his most popular song is the 1970 classic, “Feliz Navidad.”
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