Strolling by way of José Feliciano’s property in Connecticut, “Sunday Morning” contributor Kelefa Sanneh requested the singer and guitar virtuoso, “What are the sounds of Connecticut?”
“Effectively, in Connecticut., I just like the sounds at night time of the tree frogs that go shh-shh-shh, shh-shh-shh. And I like getting them began, ’trigger once I try this, they all begin going shh-shh-shh.”
“It’s a call-and-response?”
Feliciano is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of his Christmas traditional, “Feliz Navidad.” The tune has proven up all over the place, from “All within the Household” to “Glee.” And it has been sung by everybody, from Elmo to BTS. Simply final month, an anniversary model was launched that includes 30 musicians, together with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Michael Bolton.
Sanneh requested, “Whenever you had been writing ‘Feliz Navidad,’ had been you considering, this will probably be nice to have a Christmas tune that’s in Spanish and in addition in English? Was that a part of the concept?”
“We thought there’s gotta be a approach of instructing the American folks Spanish,” Feliciano replied, “and I made a decision, let’s see if we might cross that bridge. And we did.”
However wasn’t a smash hit straight away. “First, folks needed to get used to it. Then the 12 months after it caught on massive.”
He has been married to his spouse, Susan, for 38 years. “What number of instances did Susan and I journey around the globe, like in Russia, for instance, there was a Russian man whistling “Feliz Navidad’ whereas he picked up our luggage. And I assumed, ‘José, you made it, child! You made it!”
Their two sons, Michael and Jonnie, typically play with their dad. “They wouldn’t allow us to get off stage in the course of July until we performed ‘Feliz Navidad’ in Beijing,” Jonnie stated.
Born blind in Puerto Rico, José Monserrate Feliciano García moved along with his household to Spanish Harlem in New York in 1950. José was 5 years previous.
“My father would take my brothers to see the films,” he recalled. “And someday, I stated, ‘Pay attention, Dad, why don’t you’re taking me to the films with you guys?’ And my father would snort. You already know? ‘Ha! What are you gonna do in a film? You may’t see!’ And I assumed to myself, Hey, don’t motion pictures have sound?“
He started instructing himself guitar at age 9.
Sanneh requested, “Did you choose it up and [say], ‘That is the instrument for me’?”
“Oh, earlier than I picked it up I knew it could be the instrument for me, ’trigger I beloved the sound,” he replied.
He turned out to be a pure: “I assumed, There’s one thing I can do higher than any of you, and that was music. And I feel that feeling allowed me to not be bitter, to not blame God as a result of I used to be blind.”
Feliciano turned a guitar virtuoso drawing from classical, flamenco and jazz traditions.
“Whenever you’re a youngster simply looking for your approach across the fret board, was that course of like?” requested Sanneh. “Had been you simply listening to issues on the radio?”
“Yeah, that was the best way for me, by listening to different music and attempting to repeat it,’ Feliciano stated. “As soon as I copied it, despite the fact that my fingering was, as I’d say, f***** up, however it was the one factor I might do to show myself.”
“What sort of music had been you taking part in whenever you first began to play the guitar?”
“Effectively, I used to be taking part in rock and roll. I’d come residence from college, placed on ‘American Bandstand, and play together with the songs that had been on the charts then.”
His first single, “Everyone Do the Click on,” launched in 1964, had that “American Bandstand” sound:
Sanneh requested, “Was it a degree of satisfaction so that you can present folks all of the issues you would do, and that you just didn’t essentially need assistance, and also you actually didn’t want pity?”
Feliciano stated, “Oh, positively. Pity is a approach of the sighted world not feeling responsible for what drawback they suppose you could have. I’m proud of every little thing that occurred to me.”
And lots has occurred.
In 1968, he launched an album, known as “Feliciano!,” crammed along with his personal interpretations of pop hits, like “California Dreaming.”
He received two Grammys that 12 months, together with, in addition to Finest Up to date Pop Vocal Efficiency: Male, for “Mild My Fireplace.”
However his efficiency of the Nationwide Anthem on the 1968 World Sequence was extra controversial:
Sanneh requested, “As a singer, you’re sort of recognized in your jazz affect, laid-back phrasing. And that was one thing folks weren’t essentially used to listening to once they heard the Nationwide Anthem. Some folks beloved it. Some folks hated it. Proper? Some folks known as it non-patriotic or a shame.”
“Effectively, lots of people hated it greater than favored it!” Feliciano stated, “Veterans had been throwing their footwear on the tv. Folks wished to have me deported. And I assumed, ‘Effectively, they’re gonna have a troublesome time as a result of Puerto Rico is a part of america!” he laughed. “I don’t suppose anyone loves this nation as a lot as I do.”
In a profession that has lasted greater than half a century, Feliciano has made hits, and located followers, all around the globe. But when most individuals know him for “Feliz Navidad,” that’s OK with him. “I simply need the tune to be remembered,” he stated, “and in the event that they point out my title together with what they bear in mind, then even higher!”
“After they point out that tune, they’ve to say your title, come on,” Sanneh stated.
“Effectively, they do. They don’t have to!”
Pattern the fiftieth anniversary recording of “Feliz Navidad”:
For more information:
Story produced by Mary Raffalli. Editor: Lauren Barnello.