In 1966, he went to Mar del Plata, Argentina, to perform at the Festival de Mar del Plata. There, he impressed RCA Victor officials who told him to stay there to record an album in Spanish. They weren't sure what they wanted to record, but Feliciano suggested they record bolero music. The result was two smash hits with the singles Poquita Fe (Little Faith, a.k.a. Sin Fe, or Without Faith), a song written by fellow Puerto Rican Bobby Capó, and Usted (the formal way to say "you" in Spanish).
A year later Feliciano was to perform in Great Britain, but authorities would not allow his guide dog into the country. The stringent quarantine measures of those days were intended to prevent the spread of rabies. Feliciano later wrote a song entitled No Dogs Allowed, which told the story of his first visit to London.
After two more successful albums, Feliciano, now a household name all over Latin America, moved to Los Angeles. He got together with Rick Jarrard who was at the time also producing Nilsson & Jefferson Airplane. They recorded the The Doors' song Light My Fire in a Latin style and when released as a single, it reached #3 on the U.S. pop charts in late summer, 1968. Many subsequent recordings of "Light My Fire" by a multitude of artists took the arrangement from the Feliciano recording. He immediately became a sensation all across North America, selling millions of albums and followed up his success with another top 20 hit in the USA with his version of "Hi-Heel Sneakers", again recorded with a Latin feel. On the strength of this success he won two Grammy Awards for Best New Artist of the Year and for Best Pop Song of the Year in 1969.
In 1968, at the height of protests against the Vietnam War, Feliciano was given the opportunity to perform The Star-Spangled Banner at Tiger Stadium during the World Series. His highly personalized, slow, Latin jazz performance proved highly controversial. He accompanied himself on an acoustic guitar. The rendition was released as a single which charted for 5 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #50. Feliciano's "Star-Spangled Banner" took place 10 months before the more famous Jimi Hendrix rendition at Woodstock.
In 1970, he wrote and released an album of Christmas music, "Felíz Navidad," and this has probably become his most famous recording. It has been covered by many artists and is now a traditional part of the musical landscape in the U.S, Canada and Latin America around Christmas time.
In 1971, he traveled to Italy to participate in the San Remo Music Festival, singing the song Che Sarà in Italian, earning second place in that contest as well as a standing ovation by the Italian public. He later recorded the song, which became a well-known act in Italy, a great hit in half of Europe, including the Iron Curtain countries, as well as in Asia. Feliciano later recorded it in Spanish as Qué Será, becoming a hit in all of Central and South America, and in English as Shake a Hand, a big hit in Scandinavian countries.
He wrote and performed the theme song to the 1970s comedy series Chico and the Man, and played a guest role on that series as Chico's (Freddie Prinze) cousin, singer Pepe Fernando. In the 1970s, he acted and composed for TV series and movies including McMillan & Wife, Kung Fu episodes, the soundtrack of the movie Aaron Loves Angela in 1976, and Mackenna's Gold with Quincy Jones. He has guested on many albums by other artists including Bill Withers, +'Justments. John Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll, Joni Mitchell Court and Spark, Michael Nesmith "Tantamount To Treason", Natalie Cole " Everlasting" & Gloria Estefan's "Alma Caribena".
Feliciano holds the distinction of being one of the few singers to have enjoyed success both in Spanish music and in English rock and roll. He won five consecutive awards for best pop guitarist from Guitar Player magazine and was voted in jazz, classic and rock fields.
He received a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1987, and continued as a very popular singer during the 1980s. He had his hands cast on the famous Madame Tussaud's Museum's 'Wall of Fame,' and has a star in the Walk of Fame of his native Puerto Rico. He also had a great hit in 1987 in Austria for the song The Sound of Vienna, No. 1 for four weeks and recorded with the famous Vienna Symphony Orchestra, which also performed live with him at Danube Park in Vienna with more than 50,000 people and broadcast on national TV. During the 1980s, record companies gave him space only for the Latin market and he recorded an impressive number of albums for that market, including the Motown albums Escenas de Amor and Me Enamoré and others from RCA, EMI and Capitol which added four more Grammys for best Latin performer. Recorded a duet song called Por ella with the most popular Mexican singer at the time Jose Jose.
In 2003 Guitarra Mía, a special tribute to Feliciano, was produced by the Banco Popular de Puerto Rico and aired in Puerto Rico and in cities with large Latino populations in the United States. This television special (and its soundtrack) featured Feliciano and many Puerto Rican and international stars singing some of his most famous songs, along with his personal favorites from other artists. It was first aired in December 2003, just two days after his mother died unexpectedly from a heart attack; in an eerie coincidence, the special's last scenes featured her giving her son a standing ovation, recorded for the occasion a month before.
Each year during the Christmas season, Feliciano's 1970 Christmas song Feliz Navidad returns to U.S. airwaves, one of the most-played and most-downloaded radio songs and downloaded songs of the season. "Feliz Navidad" is also recognized by ASCAP as one of the 25 all-time most-played Christmas songs in the world.
On December 6, 2006, Feliciano's new Spanish album, José Feliciano y amigos was released by Universal Records, featuring Feliciano joined in duets with many other Latin American stars including Luis Fonsi, Lupillo Rivera, Luciano Pereyra, Rudy Perez, Cristian Castro, Marc Anthony, Ramon Ayala, Alicia Villarreal, Ricardo Montaner, and Raúl di Blasio. A special edition was later released and featured Ana Gabriel and Gloria Estefan.
In 2007, Feliciano released an album called Soundtrack of My Life, the first English-language album composed and written by him. Feliciano is married to wife Susan; they have 3 children: daughter Melissa and sons Jonathan and Mikey.
He has performed comedy sketches alongside Freddie Prinze, Sunshine Logroño, the staff of Despierta América and Verónica Castro, among others. He has also parodied fellow artists in his concerts, among them: Julio Iglesias, Raphael, the late Rocío Jurado and Isabel Pantoja. An occasional song at his Spanish concerts is a parody of Bobby Capó's song "El Bardo". While the Right Said Fred song "I'm Too Sexy" was popular in the early 1990s, Feliciano did a parody of it to close his English concerts.
His performance of "Old Turkey Buzzard" became a recurring bit on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2007, until Feliciano himself appeared on the show on October 16 of that year to perform a live rendition of the song.
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