December 11, 2008


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70 albums beyond “Feliz Navidad”
Guitar legend José Feliciano wants to wish you a Merry Christmas at the Palace
By Dana Unger

With his fluid guitar style and flair for putting his own distinct spin on songs like “Light My Fire” and even the national anthem, José Feliciano has become one of the most prominent performers of the pop era, widely recognized as the first Latin artist to cross over into the English music market.

Feliciano will perform at Manchester’s Palace Theatre on Sunday, Dec. 14, in a special benefit concert for The NH Association for the Blind. Feliciano himself was born with congenital glaucoma, leaving him permanently blind from birth. All funds will support programs for blind and visually impaired people living in New Hampshire.

Though perhaps best known for the holiday favorite “Feliz Navidad,” Felicino has nearly 70 albums to his credit and dozens of hits, spanning more than 40 years of performing.

Feliciano’s first big break occurred at a 1966 festival performance in Argentina, when RCA executives in Buenos Aires encouraged him to stay and record an album of Spanish music.

The success of several of the songs off the album led Feliciano to one of his biggest hits when he met up with producer Rick Jarrard, who recommended that Feliciano record a song by The Doors that he had sung in concert. The song, “Light My Fire,” shot to number one in 1968, and many subsequent recordings of the song saw several artists taking the arrangement from Feliciano’s recording.

Feliciano’s other best-known hit, 1970’s “Feliz Navidad,” has become a staple on radio stations and holiday CDs, and is a top iTunes download. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers has also placed the song among the 25 Greatest Holiday Songs of the Century.

He also sought to expand his career, making several television and film appearances, including a cameo in the Oscar-winning film Fargo and spots on the TV shows Kung Fu, Macmillian and Wife, and Chico and the Man, for which he also composed and performed the theme song. Though he enjoyed his forays into the small screen, the guitar always remained his focal point.

Feliciano has also made special appearances on the Motown 25 Extravaganza, the PBS concert special The Kennedy Center Presents – The Americanos Concert, the Lady Liberty Concert in New York, and the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Washington, D.C. In April 2008, Feliciano was invited to participate in “The Concert of Hope” before Pope Benedict XVI’s mass at New York’s Yankee Stadium.

Feliciano has performed throughout the U.S., in Canada, Europe, and elsewhere around the world, and has been honored with just about every award a musician can receive. Los Premios Globs named him “Artist of the Millennium, and he’s the recipient of the Alma Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2006, he was given the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, joining such past honorees as Oscar de la Renta, Celia Cruz and Raul Julia.

He’s received more than 45 gold and platinum records, and has earned 16 Grammy nominations, winning six. In November 2008, Feliciano was awarded his first Latin Grammy for Best Contemporary Tropical Album, for Señor Bachata.

Feliciano’s latest album, The Soundtrack of My Life, released in 2007, was five years in the making and is the first English-language album completely composed, written and produced by him.

At age 63, Feliciano is still touring and playing all over the globe, collaborating with fellow musicians, as well as assisting with countless charitable organizations. This month, Feliciano will be playing a series of holiday concerts across the country. He is set to appear on ABC’s Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade on Christmas Day, along with Sarah Brightman, Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus, and The Jonas Brothers, playing — what else? — “Feliz Navidad.”