[Nfbc-info] Jose Feliciano: Music, baseball and family are the passions that light his fire

Frida Aizenman 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 
his fire

CAPTION: José Feliciano performed recently at the Georgetown Saloon with 
his sons Jonathan and Michael under the stage name Two Kids & A Blind 
Guy. Mr.

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 
Oct. 1.

Making the ceremony a real family affair, Mr. Feliciano performed Carlos 
Santana's signature piece, "Oye Como Va,"? accompanied by his sons, 
Jonathan on

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 
Shea Stadium

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.

Love affair

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 
three when

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 
on television

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 
re-naming Public

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 
back to

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 
state." Sometimes

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 
Music Center.

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 
the fair's

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

National Anthem

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 
bit bluesy,

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 
far above

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. 
Mr. Feliciano

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, 
starring newcomer

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 
and killed

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 
comedy and

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 
can get

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 
drugs, confront

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 
nothing more

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," 
he said.

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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