Jose Feliciano Biography

José Montserrate Feliciano García, 10 September 1945, Lares, Puerto Rico. After early fame as a flamenco-style interpreter of pop and rock material, Feliciano turned more to mainstream Latin music, becoming one of the most popular artists in the Spanish-speaking world. He was born blind and as a child moved to New York’s Spanish Harlem. He learned guitar and accordion and from 1962 performed a mixture of Spanish and American material in the folk clubs and coffeehouses of Greenwich Village. Signed to RCA Records, he released a gimmicky single ‘Everybody Do The Click’ before recording an impressive debut album in 1964. Its impassioned arrangements of recent hits were continued on Feliciano! With jazz bass player Ray Brown among the backing musicians, Feliciano’s Latin treatment of the Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’ became his first hit. It was followed by a version of Tommy Tucker’s R&B standard ‘Hi-Heel Sneakers’ and such was Feliciano’s popularity that he was chosen to sing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at the 1968 baseball World Series. However, the application of his characteristic Latin-jazz styling to the US national anthem caused controversy among traditionalists.

In the UK, where he recorded a 1969 live album, Feliciano’s version of the Bee Gees’ ‘The Sun Will Shine’ was a minor hit, but the 70s saw RCA promoting Feliciano’s Spanish-language material throughout Latin America. He recorded albums in Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela and had a television show syndicated throughout the continent. He also sang the theme music to the television series Chico And The Man. In parallel with the Latin albums, Feliciano continued to record English-language songs, notably on Compartments, produced by Steve Cropper. In 1976, Feliciano switched labels to Private Stock where producer Jerry Wexler was brought in to recreate the feeling of Feliciano’s early work on Sweet Soul Music. When Motown Records set up its own Latin music label in 1981 Feliciano headed the roster, recording the Rick Jarrard-produced Romance In The Night as well as Grammy-winning Latin albums. In 1987 he signed a three-pronged contract with EMI Records to record classical guitar music and English pop (I’m Never Gonna Change) as well as further Spanish-language recordings (Tu Immenso Amor). He also pursued his jazz interests, and one of his more later albums, Steppin’ Out, was recorded for Optimism. He joined PolyGram Latino records in 1995 and releasedEl Americano the following year.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.