Jose Feliciano Recalls the Making of “Feliz Navidad”


Here is an excerpt form Feliciano’s interview with For the full interview follow the link below.

For nearly 45 years, Jose Feliciano’s bilingual Christmas song “Feliz Navidad” has been a staple of the holiday season. The buoyant tune and lyrics, which simply wish the listener “Merry Christmas” in Spanish and English, bridged language and cultural gaps and remains atop Billboard’s Holiday Airplay chart and is No. 2 on its Latin Digital Songs chart. All that is fitting for Feliciano, the Puerto Rico-born American resident who was already recognized as the first crossover artist to blend English lyrics with Latin rhythms.

Like the hit song, Feliciano, the 69-year-old singer and guitarist, has proven staying power. Despite his desire to pursue new material, he does not shy away from his past, is grateful for his accomplishments, and is happy to revisit “Feliz Navidad” each year. In fact, he’ll perform it Wednesday night with the choir at a church in Westwood, Conn., to close out Christmas Eve mass, which has been his tradition for more than 15 years.

Blind since birth, Feliciano moved with his family from Puerto Rico to New York City’s Spanish Harlem section at age 5. Exposed to various types of music from both the Spanish-speaking and English-speaking worlds, Feliciano was an early bloomer, playing professionally at a young age and signing a major recording contract by age 19. In 1968, he had a hit with his version of The Doors’ “Light My Fire,” which led to two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Song and Best New Artist of the Year. Also in 1968, he ignited some controversy by performing a dramatically reworked version of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the World Series.

A jovial and outspoken Feliciano recently spoke with HNGN about why he wrote his famous Christmas song in two languages, his early life as a musician, his version of the national anthem – and his strong patriotism and how it relates to the current national unrest in the wake of several high-profile police killings.

HNGN: When you wrote “Feliz Navidad,” did you have a feeling it was going to be a smash hit?

JF: No. I wrote it because my producer, Rick Jarrard, said, “Jose, you should write a new Christmas song.” At that particular time, the last song that was written for Christmas was “Rock Around The Christmas Tree” with Brenda Lee. Well, we were in California, it was June, and so I started humming a melody, and I started singing in Spanish, “Feliz Navidad.” And after singing that, I thought to myself, “Jose, you should not write it just in Spanish. That way the radio stations are going to be forced to play you.” They can’t say, “Oh, we can’t play it because it’s in Spanish.” So I fixed their wagons and also wrote it in English, with “I want to wish you a Merry Christmas.” And the rest is history. I’m very happy that it’s played every year. And this year, we’re No. 2 on the Latin charts, and No. 4 on the Anglo charts. So how much better can it get?

HNGN: For people of a certain age, the song was introduced to them in the 1978 TV special “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.” Do people still talk to you about that?

JF: People tell me they saw it on “Sesame Street,” and I saw it and I thought that was nice of “Sesame Street” to do that, and (the song) is kind of like “Sesame Street,” because I taught the Anglo people to speak Spanish, and I taught the Spanish people to speak English. So, hey, I’m happy.

This in an excerpt from a longer interview with Headlines and Global News. You can continue reading at

For the original report go to

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