Jose Feliciano

 

 
 
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Many industry professionals as well as prestigious musicians and artists around the world consider Jose Feliciano to be the first Latin Artist to crossover into the English music market. Accordingly, he has opened the door to mainstream other Latin Artists who today now occupy a favorable status in the American music industry. Additionally, Jose Feliciano has been acclaimed by critics throughout the world as "the greatest living guitarist". Guitar Player Magazine has awarded him Best Pop Guitarist for five years running, and has placed him in their "Gallery of the Greats". He has also been voted both Best Jazz and Best Rock Guitarist in the Playboy Magazine reader's poll numerous times. Jose has been awarded over forty -five Gold and Platinum records; has won sixteen Grammy nominations--most recently for Señor Bolero in 1998 -- earning six Grammy Awards and is in receipt of countless prestigious awards the world over. In 1996, Jose was selected to receive the honor of Billboard Magazine's Lifetime Achievement Award. In May, 2001, Jose Feliciano received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, for his musical as well as humanitarian contributions to the world over the last 30+ years.

Being constantly in demand to appear all over the world, Jose has performed for and with some of the most important people on the planet. He has also enjoyed playing with many top Symphony Orchestras including the London Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the famous Vienna Symphony. He has also appeared on major television shows worldwide and has done a number of his own television specials.

Jose was born blind, to humble beginnings on September 10, 1945, in Lares, Puerto Rico. One of eleven boys, his love affair with music began at the age of three when he first accompanied his uncle on a tin cracker can. When he was five, his family immigrated to New York City. Young Jose learned to play the concertina at age six, using a handful of records as his teacher. At eight, he performed for his classmates at PS 57, and at nine, performed at The Puerto Rican Theater. Wanting to venture beyond the accordion, he taught himself to play the guitar with undaunted determination and again, with nothing but records as his teacher for as many as 14 hours a day. Exposed to the rock-n-roll of the 50's, Jose was then inspired to sing.

At 17, Jose quit school. His father was not working at the time and he needed to help his family. He played coffee houses in Greenwich Village and for his salary --as was customary during that time period in small clubs-- they'd "pass the hat". He played his first professional engagement that same year in Detroit. Shortly thereafter, a music critic writing of his performance at Gerde's Folk City referred to him as a "10-fingered wizard who romps, runs, rolls, picks and reverberates his six strings in an incomparable fashion." And added, "If you want to witness the birth of a star, catch Mr. Feliciano before he leaves tomorrow night."

Jose's first major break in the industry, however, happened in the Spanish market when, in 1966, after an amazing performance at the Mar del Plata Festival in Argentina, the RCA executives in Buenos Aires encouraged Jose to stay there and record an album of Spanish music. "They really didn't know what to do with me in the studio," Jose recalls. "So I suggested that we record a number of old boleros--songs I had heard from the time I was a kid." Feliciano's interpretation of the classic bolero of the time was revolutionary. The first single, "Poquita Fe", was a 'smash' hit and "Usted" was even bigger. Jose had taken long-time standards and made them brand new; he re-worked and re-fashioned them with his own style of acoustic guitar artistry and the vocal inflections of his the jazz and American influences he had acquired during his adolescence.

Two more albums followed in similar fashion and the name Jose Feliciano was known all throughout South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. Then, the RCA exec's in Los Angeles coupled him with producer, Rick Jarrard, who recommended Jose record a Doors' song he had been doing in his concerts, locally--a tune called, "Light My Fire".

By the time he was 23, he had earned five Grammy nominations and won two Grammy Awards for his album "Feliciano!", had performed over much of the world, and had recorded songs in four languages. But Jose was not satisfied. He had a desire to expand his career to include acting and made a number of dramatic TV appearances.

One of Jose's most memorable moments came on December 1, 1987 when he joined other entertainment legends in having his star permanently implanted on the world renowned Hollywood Walk of Fame. Similarly, Jose has also been given a star on the Walk of Fame in his native Puerto Rico alongside Jose Ferrer and Raul Julia. Also, Jose had his hands cast for the world famous Wall of Fame in Madame Tussaud's in London, England. His 'hands' were displayed among artists such as Phil Collins, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Michael Jackson and The Backstreet Boys.

Feliciano earned his sixth Grammy Award in 1991 and is the only performer who has won pop music awards in two language categories. On January 8, 1997, Jose's "Americano" album was nominated for a Grammy, marking his fifteenth nomination and in 1998, "Señor Bolero" earned him number sixteen.

Interestingly, Jose is one of the only artists to have ever been signed to a multi-tiered record contract with a major label to record in English and Spanish, as well as classical! Even the local government of New York City has honored Jose by re-naming Public School 155 in East Harlem, dedicating it as "The Jose Feliciano Performing Arts School."

From a historical point of view, it should be noted that Jose was the first artist to ever stylize the National Anthem and perform it publicly. He did so during the 5th game of the World Series between the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals in historic Tiger Stadium on October 7, 1968. It was the first time the anthem became a charted Top-40 recording again, opening the door for new generations of stylization. The national anthem is rarely sung in it's strictly traditional form since his historic performance.

Three songs that have been milestones for Feliciano are: 1) "Light My Fire", which was number one on the charts in 1968 and according to the song publisher, is now a "standard" due to Jose's interpretation. 2) "Che Sera", a mega-success in Europe, Asia and South America and of course, 3) "Feliz Navidad," the Christmas song that has now become a tradition worldwide during the holiday season every year. In fact, ASCAP has placed this song among the 25 Greatest Holiday Songs of the Century, and is including it in a new CD with this theme later this year.

Moreover, the world has enjoyed many Feliciano songs, including: "Rain", "Chico and the Man", "California Dreamin'", "Destiny", "Affirmation", "Ay Cariño", "Ponte A Cantar", "Cuando El Amor Se Acaba", "Porque Te Tengo Que Olvidar?", and countless others. Feliciano's contributions to the music industry have been far reaching--spanning generations and continents while emphasizing cultural diversity and mutual acceptance, enhanced significantly by his unsurpassed musical integrity.

Venturing into another artistic genre, he was invited, in the early 90's, by legendary author, Ray Bradbury, to write the music to his play, "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit," He did so with the grace of a veteran.

Feliciano and his wife, Susan, have been together since 1971. In 1988 they were blessed with a daughter, Melissa Anne, and in 1991 with their first son, Jonathan Jose. In 1995 Jose and Susan had their third child, Michael Julian. They live in a 270 year-old riverfront colonial home in Fairfield County, Connecticut. His passions include writing and recording in his studio, baseball --both playing and listening to it on the radio, and being a dad!

In the early 90's, Jose indulged himself a little by staying closer to home, enjoying his young family and trying his hand at a life-long desire-- "to be on the air!!" The local Westport, Connecticut radio station, WMMM, became the instrument for this dream. Its General Manager, Mark Graham and Jose had a Saturday morning talk show entitled, "Speaking of Music", where they would chat together, share musical tidbits and trivia, interview musical artists and play an array of music from jazz to the rock and roll of the 50's and early 60's to pop and more. The community embraced their collaboration and the show continued for well over a year until Jose's touring schedule simply couldn't afford the time it took to broadcast a weekly show.

Jose's gifts of time, treasure and talent have earned him, over the years, the reputation of great humanitarian and 'Ambassador of Good Will', throughout the world. "I'll never forget where I came from, nor the people who helped my family or me along the way". For this reason, Jose will often lend a hand or his name in support of causes that he believes are important.

During mid-1994, Jose charted on Billboard with a dance-single called "Goin Krazy" under the moniker of "JF". This was unprecedented for a classic Pop Artist such as Jose, who had never recorded or released a dance single. The end of 1994 brought one of Jose's greatest honors, an invitation to Rome to star on "Christmas at the Vatican" and to have a private audience with Pope John Paul II.

Likewise, Jose has been part of many historic co-billed events where he has shared the stage with other internationally renowned artists. One such event that Jose enjoyed occurred in August of 1995. Jose co-headlined with Paul Simon and James Taylor at the internationally-acclaimed 'Back To The Ranch Benefit' on Long Island for an estimated twelve thousand people. In the past, artists such as Billy Joel and Sting have been invited to perform on this show. Jose was honored to be ranked among the caliber of past performers invited to co-headline at this unique benefit. Going back a few years, Jose fondly remembers his appearance on the Motown 25 Extravaganza and the "Lady Liberty Concert" in New York.

Throughout 1995 there were numerous TV specials in which Jose appeared. He performed in the USA, Canada as well as England, Switzerland, Italy, Vienna, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Australia, The Philippines, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Also that year, Jose had a cameo appearance in the Academy Award Winning motion picture "Fargo" in which he performed "Let's Find Each Other Tonight", a Feliciano composition. He filmed this in 1995. During the month of March 1995, he taped a TV special for PBS in which he performed with the Puerto Rican Symphony.

In 1996, the double album entitled "Modern Anthology" was released. It is a retrospective collection of songs that spans his 30 years in the music industry. Also in 1996, Jose was selected to receive the honor of Billboard Magazines' Lifetime Achievement Award.

In November of 1997, PolyGram released "Americano" worldwide and he, again, began to tour non-stop in support of this album. It earned for Jose his fifteenth Grammy nomination while the single "No Me Mires Asi" reached the top 10 position in many markets and attained #1 status in New York and Miami.

On September 3rd, PolyGram released Jose's most important recording in many years, entitled, "SEÑOR BOLERO". This album marked a return to his musical roots. Having revolutionized the sound of the bolero early in his career, he rose to a new standard with this classic and very romantic torch song, for which he had long been associated. PolyGram had designed an elaborate promotional campaign to underscore this most exciting collection of boleros and had plans on releasing between four and six singles from the album. Public response was absolutely phenomenal and in the first two weeks of its release, it had out-sold the previous Spanish album which had, at that time, been out for two years. The first single from Señor Bolero, Me Has Echado Al Olvido, shot straight to number one in New York and in countries throughout Central and South America. In less than six weeks after the release of Señor Bolero, it had earned its first platinum status in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Shortly thereafter, it was nominated by NARAS for Best Latin Pop Album of the year, marking Jose's sixteenth nomination. Thus far, "Señor Bolero" has attained DOUBLE PLATINUM status in The United States, Puerto Rico and Venezuela and GOLD in Mexico,Cost Rica and Argentina.

During the Christmas Season of 1998, Jose was invited to attend and perform at the 75th Annual "Pageant of Peace" Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington, D.C. , along with artists Tony Bennett and opera great, Leona Mitchell. Afterwards, Jose and his family were invited by the President and Mrs. Clinton to attend their Christmas reception at the White House.

Jose continues to share the stage with music and film legends and internationally renowned artists. His PBS Television Concert Special, "Jose Feliciano - A Legend In Concert", began airing nationwide during August, 1999. In this special, Feliciano sings many of his classic hits and current songs from "Señor Bolero". During the same month, Jose was the co-star of another PBS Television Concert Special entitled, "The Kennedy Center Presents - The Americanos Concert", produced by Edward James Olmos, where Gloria Estefan joined Jose in a duet. In addition, Jose, along with Carlos Santana, joined Ricky Martin for his CBS Television Special, "Ricky Martin Live" which first aired on November 26, 1999. Jose was viewed, at the time, as being one of the very few artists to have ever been featured on two distinctly different PBS programs at the same time.

Premios Globos honored Jose with an incredible accolade: Artist of the Millennium Award! Then he entered this new Millennium with great impact: Universal/PolyGram penned a new and dynamic contract with Feliciano to release a long-awaited English language CD. Producing are Emilio Estefan, Rudy Perez and Jose -- the mood is upbeat and excited as we anticipate the 2002 release.

The Alma Award for Lifetime Achievement was presented to Jose in 2000 in Los Angeles, as the event, which was broadcast on Network television, brought together a host of entertainment icons to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the Latin Entertainment Industry.

Another project of great excitement was the television music theme song for Paramont Pictures and the UPN Network. "Behind The Mask" opened and closed the weekly Saturday program, "Queen of Swords", the story of a dynamic young woman in 19th century Spain who travels to the frontier land of Alta California to avenge the wrongful death of her beloved father. Once there, she finds her calling to protect the most vulnerable of souls from the evil tyrants who control the brutal territory. "Queen of Swords" premiered in October in the U.S. and in 90+ countries around the world.

Also in October was the release of Gloria Estefan's duet with Jose, "Tengo Que Decirte Algo", which appears on her current CD for Sony, "Alma Caribeña - Caribbean Soul". Earlier that year, Jose joined Gloria in the Bahamas for her TV Special, "Alma Caribeña - The Atlantis Concert", along with Marc Anthony and N'SYNC!

Additionally, the highly anticipated special, "Guitarra Mia"-- a tribute to the life and music of Jose Feliciano--produced by Banco Popular, aired nationally and in Puerto Rico. One of the performances from the special --a duet with Marc Anthony--"Oye Guitarra Mía", has gotten the attention of radio stations around the country and in the Caribbean.

The Summer 2001 Touring Season brought Jose to locations throughout Europe, South America and Asia. Tremendous responses were received at the famous Danube Festival in Vienna and from the Baroque Awards presentation in Italy, were Jose received this year's prestigious International Award. In July, he premiered his newest classical piece with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, dedicated to his mentor, Andres Segovia.

Jose has recorded over 65 albums in his impressive career. Still humble with all the successes he has had, Jose feels that his career is just beginning and that he has just started to share his talents with the world.

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