Born blind in impoverished conditions in Puerto Rico in 1945, Jose Feliciano grabbed onto a guitar as a child in New York City’s Spanish Harlem and played his way into renown as one of the world’s greatest guitarists.
Influenced by such artists as Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Django Rheinhart, Feliciano burst on the U.S. pop scene with a Spanish folk rendition of the Doors’ “Light My Fire” and he stunned listeners with a dramatic interpretation of the National Anthem at the World Series in 1968.
He’s put out an assortment of interpretative records in various styles through the years, most recently recording the sounds of Mexican rancheros on a CD released last September titled “A Mexico … Con Amor.”
“I always liked music since I was a boy. That is what has impelled me,” Feliciano told reporter Enrique Fuentevilla of the Arkansas Times’ sister publication, El Latino.
The six-time Grammy Award winning Feliciano will perform two shows with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra as part of its Pops, Live! Series celebrating Cinco de Mayo on Friday and Saturday, May 6-7, at Robinson Center Music Hall. Both shows are at 8 p.m., and tickets range from $16 to $65. Call 666-1761.
“His guitar technique pulls together the pinpoint attack of flamenco … and the blues inflections of rock lead guitar, and he can sing with the dramatic inflections of a bolero singer,” a New York Times reviewer once said.
Feliciano told El Latino that his songwriting comes from “the things that happen to me, the news that I see. You never know where a song is going to arrive at. Sometimes you don’t know the reason, but it arrives. And … since I am not only a singer, I am a musician and guitarist, sometimes classic pieces arrive to me or sometimes melodies for a song arrive to me.”
Feliciano, who turns 60 in September and now lives in Connecticut, says he believes more records will be forthcoming. “I’m a very youthful person in my musical thoughts and everything, and I believe that if God still gives me health, I will continue.”