José Feliciano, half a century after 'Feliz Navidad'
Artists like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Shaggy and Michael Bolton have joined Feliciano in launching a remastered version of the catchy Christmas classic on its 50th anniversary.
At age 75, Puerto Rican Jose Feliciano never imagined that a seemingly flat song about Christmas would become such a hit that it has overcome geographical and temporal barriers. Ever since the singer-songwriter included it in his 1970 album, Feliz Navidad, the Christmas ballad of the same name has been on Billboard's Hot 100 list repeatedly and is one of the most chanted, played, recorded, and even whistled melodies in the world.
Now that 50 years have passed, social media is boiling with all kinds of photographs and memories of the golden era when Feliciano sang it and Christmas was much whiter than this year. Some 30 artists have also joined him to pay a well-deserved tribute.
Among them are celebrities such as Michael Bolton, Jason Mraz, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Shaggy, the Latin band CNCO, the country duo Big Rich and Mexican singer and actress Patricia Manterola.
Although the pandemic has made it impossible for them to get together to record, the miracle of technology has allowed them to do so remotely and the result was a brilliant new version of "Feliz Navidad" released by Amazon Music on Friday, Nov. 20.
Such a mixture of rhythms and different artists is at the heart of the song, which Feliciano composed using "We Three Kings" and "The First Noel" as inspirations and with the idea of "bringing people together."
"My idea when I wrote the song was that no matter what language you sing in, we all share the feeling of Christmas," said the nine-Grammy winning musician.
Feliciano, who acknowledged that with "Feliz Navidad," a dream he had in mind for many years was fulfilled, always argued that his Christmas album wasn't "mellow," but "told the story of the Savior's birth in a musical way that people could support."
Blind from birth and born in the slums of Puerto Rico, Jose Feliciano's career to become a music icon is full of adventures and bitter obstacles. Fifty-five years on the world's stages and dazzling Grammy hits is also a life worth telling.
From "Light My Fire" to "Chico" and "The Man," a documentary film — Behind the Guitar — will be released next year that tells the story of the singer, composer, and musician. It sheds light on his humble past on the island, in New York and how he lived his dazzling successes, including a Christmas concert at the Vatican.
"The letters that life gave me were not very good," Feliciano told AP. "I came from a foreign land, I had no vision, or at least I thought I didn't — until I discovered that I had vision and that I saw things as they should be seen."
As another special gift for these dark times, Feliciano will offer a virtual concert on Dec. 20, where he will perform "Feliz Navidad" and other Christmas classics.