Happy birthday José Montserrate Feliciano García (born September 10, 1945), better known simply as José Feliciano, a Puerto Rican virtuoso guitarist, singer, and composer known for many international hits, including his rendition of the Doors’ « Light My Fire » and the best-selling Christmas single « Feliz Navidad ». His music is known for having a mix of styles, for example including both Flamenco music and mellow easy listening influences in many songs.
Feliciano was born in Lares, Puerto Rico, on September 10, 1945. Left permanently blind at birth as a result of congenital glaucoma, he was first exposed to music at the age of three; he would play on a tin cracker can while accompanying his uncle, who played the cuatro. When Feliciano was five, his family moved to Spanish Harlem, New York City, and at nine he played the Teatro Puerto Rico in The Bronx.
Feliciano started his musical life playing the accordion until his father gave him in a brown paper bag, his first guitar. He would play his guitar by himself in his room for up to 14 hours a day, and would listen to 1950s rock’n’roll, records of classical guitarists and jazz players. Andrés Segovia and Wes Montgomery were among his favorites. Feliciano later had classical lessons with Harold Morris, who had been a student of Segovia. In a 1969 interview, he also mentioned soul music in general, and Ray Charles in particular, as influences on his singing.
At 17 he quit school to play in clubs. He had his first professional, contracted performance in Detroit.
In the US, he received widespread popularity in the 1960s, particularly after his 1968 album Feliciano! came out and was a No. 2 hit. He has released many albums over the years in both English and Spanish.
On December 15, 2010, Feliciano appeared as the featured guest on the 37th episode of Daryl Hall’s Webbie-Award winning webcast Live From Daryl’s House. Feliciano and Hall took turns on several numbers, including Feliciano’s version of « Light My Fire. » On November 9, 2011, Feliciano received the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement award from the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.
In January 2012, he was a guest in Memphis for the celebration of Elvis Presley’s birthday, where he announced the release (on August 7, 2012) of his new album The King, a tribute to Elvis produced in collaboration with Elvis’ former manager, George Klein. In July 2012, he signs with managers MBM/Howard Perl Management and then on August 7, 2012, Feliciano released The King, a tribute to Elvis Presley. The record was executive-produced by Elvis’ former best friend George Klein and released by Johnny Phillips’ Select-O-Hits label.
On September 19, 2012, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, he was invited to sing « God Bless America » for the seventh-inning stretch of the New York Yankees game at Yankee Stadium. Additionally, less than one month later, on October 14, 2012, Feliciano returned to baseball’s post-season, and on national television, once again rendered his stylized version of the Star-Spangled Banner in San Francisco before the first game of the National League’s Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.