I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, from the bottom of my heart. Sound familiar? Yes, that's a line from José Feliciano's song "Feliz...
MIAMI — I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, from the bottom of my heart.
Yes, that’s a line from José Feliciano’s song “Feliz Navidad,” a holiday radio fixture for 35 years.
But this winter means more to Feliciano than just the annual return of his classic, catchy tune. In December, he released a Spanish language duets CD called “José Feliciano y Amigos,” which features Marc Anthony, Luis Fonsi and Alicia Villarreal, among others.
Most Read Entertainment Stories
- FBI releases file on late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain
- Heart’s Nancy Wilson finds her voice with first true solo album
- Tawny Kitaen, star of '80s rock music videos, dies at 59
- Seattle’s theater stagehand community, still idled by COVID shutdown, fears a mental health crisis
- Family of Chris Cornell settles with doctor over his death
Feliciano, 61, also has an English-language CD set for release in February called “Soundtracks of My Life.” It includes original material from the artist who’s earned critical praise and six Grammys for his forays into several genres — pop, jazz, bolero and ranchero.
The Puerto Rican-born singer-guitarist is considered the first established Spanish-language artist to successfully cross over into American music with his Grammy-winning 1968 album “Feliciano!”
Feliciano also garnered attention for his public performance of another song, “The Star Spangled Banner,” during the 1968 World Series. His stylized take of the national anthem stoked critics who said his personalized version was disrespectful and inappropriate.
In a telephone interview, Feliciano, who is blind, touched on his newest endeavors and reflected on his career.
Q: You have tackled different types of musical genres. Is there a formula that you stuck with in pursuing each one?
A: The formula always was … know what you’re doing. Like with anything I do, it has to be a music that I know really well. For example, in February I’m coming out with my first English album in quite a while … It took me five years, really, to gather the material to do it.
Q: Are you proud of being the first “crossover” Latin artist?
A: I take pride in the fact that I was the first Hispanic artist to really crack the English market. I know Ritchie Valens in 1959 had “La Bamba” but to be totally Spanish — because, you know, Ritchie didn’t speak Spanish — but to be a total Latin artist like myself, to be out in a field where there weren’t any categories for Latinos … I felt good that I was maybe — I didn’t know it at the time — but I felt good that I opened the door. And, you know, now everybody’s enjoying Latin music. Now they have the Latin Grammys. I’m kind of iffy on the Latin Grammys because I think we fought so hard, for example, to get the American side of the Grammys to open categories for us … But I support the Latin Grammys in the sense I’m glad that we have them. I just hope that we don’t lose what we fought so hard to get.
Q: Looking back at the national-anthem controversy, are you still surprised about the negative response to the performance?
A: It ruined my career for at least three years. Radio stations stopped playing my records. It’s been really a tough road for me. I’m hoping that my English album will break some ground, and I’ll start getting airplay in English. Until “Chico and the Man” came along in ’73 you didn’t hear me on the radio [Feliciano wrote and sang the TV show’s theme song.] I was very, very fortunate that “Chico and the Man” was on TV, that helped me quite a bit. Of course, having the No. 1 Christmas song in the Spanish market, “Feliz Navidad,” doesn’t hurt either.
Q: What were some of the obstacles you faced in those three years?
A: I just noticed I didn’t hear myself on the radio very much like I did in the beginning of ’68, and the spring. It kind of hurt my feelings a little bit because I never intended to defame America by doing the anthem. If anything it was expressing how I felt and how much I love this country that I live in. When you’re a pioneer, it’s a tough thing … I did it my way, with feeling, with soul.
Q: Why do you think “Feliz Navidad” has had such longevity?
A: People just really like that song because it’s simple, it hits a certain core … It’s easy to remember, and it appeals to both cultures, English and Spanish. People play it because it’s a happy song, it has a lot of energy.
Q: How do you feel about the fact that you are a hero to many blind people?
A: I do what I can. It’s not my main goal in life in that sense, but I do encourage people who are blind. And if my music encourages them to be independent and do things, I’m happy about that.