As importantly, Feliciano has been acclaimed by critics around the world as “The greatest living guitarist.” Referred to as “The Picasso of his Realm,” José Feliciano’s accomplishments are highly celebrated. He’s been awarded over forty-ﬁve Gold and Platinum records; he has won nineteen Grammy nominations, earning nine Grammy Awards, including the “LARAS Award for Lifetime Achievement.”
José Feliciano’s musical career has been immortalized with a Star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame while New York City honored him by re-naming Public School 155 in East Harlem, “The José Feliciano Performing Arts School.” The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, an ancient and prestigious Papal Order of the Catholic Church knighted José in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and he 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. Guitar Player Magazine awarded him “Best Pop Guitarist,” placing him in their “Gallery of the Greats,” and he was voted both “Best Jazz” and “Best Rock Guitarist” in the Playboy Magazine reader’s poll, as well. In 1996, José was selected to receive Billboard Magazine’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Continuing to be constantly in demand, José has performed for and with some of the most important people on Earth. He’s enjoyed playing with many of the top symphonic orchestras including the London Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. He’s appeared on major television shows worldwide; he has done a number of his own specials and his music has been featured on television, in ﬁlms and on the stage.
José 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 José learned to play the concertina at age six, using a handful of records as his teacher. At the age of 8, he entertained his classmates at PS 57, and at 9, performed at The Puerto Rican Theater in the Bronx. Venturing beyond the accordion around that time, he taught himself to play the guitar with undaunted determination and again, with nothing but records as his teacher, practicing for as many as 14 hours a day. Exposed to the Rock’n’Roll of the 50’s, José was then inspired to sing.
José’s ﬁrst major break in the industry, however, happened in the Spanish market when, in 1966, after a spectacular performance at the Mar del Plata Festival in Argentina, the RCA executives in Buenos Aires encouraged José to stay and record an album of Spanish music. “They really didn’t know what to do with me in the studio,” José recalls. “So I suggested that we record a number of old boleros – songs I’d heard from the time I was a kid.” Feliciano’s instinct and his interpretation of the classic bolero of the time was nothing short of amazing. The ﬁrst single, “Poquita Fe,” was a ‘smash’ hit and “Usted” was even bigger.
José had taken long-time standards, torch songs from another era, and made them brand new. He re-worked and re-fashioned them with his signature acoustic guitar style and his vocal inﬂections of jazz and the American inﬂuences that he’d acquired during his adolescence. The formula clicked and José quickly became a “teen idol,” no longer able to pass through airports or even leave his hotel room without a riot.
By the time he was twenty-three, José Feliciano had earned ﬁve Grammy nominations and won two Grammy Awards for his album “Feliciano!” He had performed over much of the world, and had recorded songs in four languages.
But José wasn’t satisﬁed. He had a desire to expand his career to include some acting and during the next few years, had made a number of dramatic TV appearances, including an episode of “Kung Fu,” “Macmillan and Wife” and “Chico and the Man.” “It was a lot of fun,” recalls José , “but, I’m a musician…”
A musician, indeed.
Three songs that have been milestones for Feliciano are: 1) “Light My Fire,” which topped the charts globally in 1968 and according to the song’s publisher, is now considered a standard because of José’s interpretation. 2) “Che Sará," the 1971 San Remo Music Festival entry that became a mega-success for José throughout Europe, Asia and South America, and of course, 3) “Feliz Navidad,” the Christmas song that has become a tradition worldwide, and top digital download while being acclaimed by ASCAP as one of the 25 Greatest Holiday Songs of the Century!
Additionally, the world enjoys many other Feliciano songs, including “Rain,” “Chico and the Man,” “California Dreamin’,” “Destiny,” “Afﬁrmation,” ‘The Sound of Vienna,” “Ay Cariño,” “Ponte A Cantar,” “Cuando El Amor Se Acaba,” “Porque Te Tengo Que Olvidar?” and countless others, many of which are of his own writing. When, for example, José made a cameo appearance in the Academy Award Winning motion picture “Fargo” in 1995, he performed one such important self-penned composition, “Let’s Find Each Other Tonight,” demonstrating his strength as a songwriter, as well as a performer. As Steve Buscemi’s character in the ﬁlm, Carl Showalter, declared, “You know, José Feliciano: you got no complaints.”
Over the years, José’s gifts of time, treasure and talent have appropriately earned him the reputation of great humanitarian and “Ambassador of Good Will” throughout the world. “I’ll never forget where I came from or the people who helped my family or me along the way.” And even though José has recorded nearly seventy albums in his impressive career he is still humble with all the successes he has had and, remarkably, feels that he’s just started to share his talents with the world.