[Nfbc-info] Jose Feliciano: Music, baseball and family are the passions that light his fire
nfbfrida at gmail.com
Mon Dec 25 17:49:47 UTC 2017
From my 2006 pack rat files. Enjoy:
Weston Forum, Connecticut USA
Jose Feliciano: Music, baseball and family are the passions that light
CAPTION: José Feliciano performed recently at the Georgetown Saloon with
his sons Jonathan and Michael under the stage name Two Kids & A Blind
Feliciano was just given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Hispanic
Heritage Foundation. -Bryan Haeffele photo
"Music is the best healer of all wounds," according to José Feliciano,
the legendary musician many critics have called the greatest living
Having endured physical limitations and a humble beginning, Mr.
Feliciano, who lives in Weston with his family, has experienced the
power of music through
a highly successful career that has spanned nearly four decades.
Earlier this month, he was honored as a role model in the Latino
community by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, which awarded him a
lifetime achievement award.
Considered the first Latino crossover artist to achieve success, Mr.
Feliciano is known worldwide for the songs "Light My Fire"? and "Feliz
and has six Grammy Awards and 45 gold and platinum records to his credit.
At a black-tie ceremony at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the
foundation recognized Mr. Feliciano along with Antonio Banderas, Juan
Juliette Villarreal Garcia, Consuelo Castilo Kickbusch and James A. Johnson.
The ceremony was filmed live and was broadcasted on NBC Universal
stations on Sept. 30, as well as on the Telemundo Network, "Los Primos
Herencia Hispana on October 1, and the American Forces Network also on
Making the ceremony a real family affair, Mr. Feliciano performed Carlos
Santana's signature piece, "Oye Como Va,"? accompanied by his sons,
drums and Michael on bass.
Just a few weeks after the Kennedy Center honor, Mr. Feliciano was
finishing production on a newly recorded album of duets.
He could also be seen giving an impromptu mini-concert at the Emmanuel
Episcopal Church Fair on Lyons Plain Road, and cheering for the Mets at
on the night they clinched the National League East title. "The stadium
rocked from the excitement,"? he said.
At 61, Mr. Feliciano clearly shows no signs of slowing down.
One of 11 boys, Mr. Feliciano was born blind with congenital glaucoma in
Puerto Rico in 1945. His love affair with music began at the age of
he first accompanied his uncle on a tin cracker can.
His family moved from Puerto Rico to New York City when he was five, and
soon thereafter he learned to play the guitar using only records as his
and practicing for as many as 14 hours per day.
Exposed to rock and roll in the 50s, Mr. Feliciano was inspired to sing,
and after his first professional engagement in Detroit, a music critic
"if you want to witness the birth of a star, catch Mr. Feliciano before
he leaves tomorrow night."?
In 1968, his version of The Doors' "Light My Fire" launched him to
stardom, and his intelligence and amiable personality made him a fixture
and talk shows.
In 1996, Mr. Feliciano was selected to receive Billboard Magazine's
Lifetime Achievement Award. New York City has also honored him by
School 155 in East Harlem The José Feliciano Performing Arts School. In
2001, he received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Sacred Heart
in Fairfield, for his musical and humanitarian contributions to the world.
At home in Weston
For about 16 years, Mr. Feliciano and his wife Susan have called Weston
home. They live in the former Banks Tavern, a historic building dating
1730. They share the homestead with their children, Melissa, 17,
Jonathan, 15, Michael, 11, and a menagerie of pets, including exotic
birds such as parrots,
finches, canaries, doves and one quail. "We call him Dan,"? Mr.
Feliciano said with a sly sense of humor.
When he is not recording or performing on the road, Mr. Feliciano enjoys
spending time at home with his family. "Connecticut is a beautiful
people are so involved in their businesses they don't stop to smell the
roses, and there are a lot of roses here," he said.
On any given Thursday at the Georgetown Saloon's Open Mike Night,
patrons may come across a musical act called "Two Kids and A Blind Guy."
That would be
a trio consisting of Mr. Feliciano and his two sons.
So who gave the group its distinctive name?
"Guess who?", Ms. Feliciano said. "José of course, that's him,"? she
Mr. Feliciano loves performing with his sons. "I never thought I would
be playing with my boys. I am surprised how quickly they learned the
songs I taught
them." The boys, who are home-schooled, also study music at the Westport
For Jonathan, who plays drums and is learning guitar, performing at the
Kennedy Center was a terrific experience, and he wasn't as nervous as he
he would be. "As long as I am playing with my dad it's fun," he said.
The Felicianos are an active part of the community and every year they
try to attend the Emmanuel Fair. In years past, Mr. Feliciano has judged
chocolate chip cookie contest and been a prize in the silent auction
(singing "Happy Birthday" to the winner).
This year, Mr. Feliciano led the crowd in a stirring round of "America
the Beautiful," and afterwards introduced the pastor David Feyrer to the
joys of the pig's crackling at the fair's after-hours pig roast.
Caption: José Feliciano is greeted by Emmanuel Episcopal Church pastor
David Feyrer at the recent church fair. -Patricia Gay photo
It's hard to believe that such a generous and gentle man as José
Feliciano, who is beloved by fans throughout the world, could ever have
been the subject
of a major national controversy. However, just as his career was taking
off, he nearly got himself banned from the airwaves.
It all started with the National Anthem.
"In 1968, Ernie Harwell, the announcer for the Detroit Tigers, asked me
if I would like to sing the National Anthem at the fifth game of the
?Mr. Feliciano said. Being a big baseball fan, he agreed. He had crafted
a stylized version of the Star Spangled Banner that was reverent and a
not unlike Ray Charles' version of "America the Beautiful."?
Mr. Feliciano wanted to sing the anthem in gratitude to a country that
had given him a chance and allowed "a blind kid with a dream" to reach
his limitations, providing a better life for him and his family. "I
think this is a great country we live in, America, even with its
faults," he said.
But, as soon as he started to sing before the packed stadium, he knew
something was wrong. "I could feel it," he said.
At a time when the country was divided by the Vietnam war, some
mistakenly believed that Mr. Feliciano's interpretation was unpatriotic
and there was immediate
backlash. "My career was put on hold, and some radio stations stopped
playing my songs," he said.
Although today stylized versions of the National Anthem are commonplace,
he was a pioneer and the first to do it; and for that, he paid a price.
is still proud of the performance, and his recording of the National
Anthem can be heard on the Web site
In 1973, Mr. Feliciano worked his back way into the mainstream when he
wrote and performed the theme song for the TV show Chico and the Man,
and fellow Latino Freddie Prinze.
He immediately struck a friendship with Mr. Prinze, who at 22, was one
of the hottest rising talents in Hollywood. Tragically, Mr. Prinze shot
himself while under the influence of drugs.
"This was a big loss, not only personally, but to the hispanic community
as well, because this was the first time a Latino was doing well in
starring in a TV show," Mr. Feliciano said.
That incident left a permanent mark on Mr. Feliciano, who is not afraid
to speak out about the perils of drug abuse. "If there is one message I
across to parents, it is to talk to your kids about drugs. When they are
in school, search their rooms and look for paraphernalia. If you find
them and do something about it," he said.
As an avid fan of both the Mets and Yankees, Mr. Feliciano is looking
forward to post-season play in major league baseball. He would love
than a subway series between the two teams.
"I have followed the Mets for a long time and remember when they
couldn't win a game. And I am really glad for Willie Randolph and what
he has done with
the team. He has shown that an African American can manage a baseball
team and do a great job. Joe Torre probably taught him how to manage,"
So who would he root for? "I have to root for the underdogs, the Mets,"
he said. "I was born sick, blind, and poor and I can relate more to the
of the world," he added.
And how about the possibility of singing the National Anthem for the
Mets? "I'd love it! If they ask me to, I'll sing it for them."
Perhaps this year, his version of the National Anthem would heal some
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