He was first exposed to music at age 3. At five, his family moved to Spanish Harlem, New York City. At age 9, he played on the Teatro Puerto Rico. He could play various instruments (such as the accordion) by then but he wanted to learn to play the guitar. To learn, he locked himself in his room for up to 14 hours a day to listen to 1950s rock albums.
At 17, he quit school to play on clubs, because his family was going through a precarious economic situation. That year also, he had his first professional, contracted performance. He went to Detroit for that.
In 1966, he went to Mar Del Plata, to perform at the Festival de Mar Del Plata. There, he impressed RCA Victor officials, who told him to stay there to record an album in Spanish. They werent sure what they wanted to record, but Feliciano suggested they record bolero music. The result was two smashing hits with the singles Poquita Fe (Little Faith) and Uste ( You, uste(d) being a more respectful way to say you in Spanish).
After two more, successful albums, Feliciano had become a household name all over Latin America. Then, he moved to Los Angeles, to pursue his dream of becoming a house hold name in the United States too. Feliciano then came up with hits such as Feliz Navidad (I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas!!), and his own version of The Doors' song Light My Fire. He immediately became a sensation all across North America and he sold millions of albums there with those two songs.
In 1968, at the height of protests against the Vietnam War, Feliciano was given the opportunity to sing the Star-Spangled Banner during the World Series. His highly personalized, slow, Latin-jazz performance proved highly controversial. Some called his rendition unpatriotic and a disgrace; some called for his exportation. Others understood the emotions and sincerity of his performance, and he emerged as a counterculture hero. The rendition was released as a single showed up in the Billboard top 40.
Feliciano's Star-Spangled Banner took place 10 months before the now famous Jimi Hendrix rendition at Woodstock.
Feliciano holds the distinction of being one of the few singers to have enjoyed success both in Spanish music and in English rock and roll. He received a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1987, after continuing on being a very popular singer during the 1980s. He had his hands cast on the famous Madame Tussaud's museum's Wall of Fame, and he has a star in the Walk of Fame of his natal Puerto Rico.
In 1995, Feliciano was honored by the government of New York, which re-named Public School 155 the Jose Feliciano Performing Arts School.
In 2001, Feliciano admitted to having inpregnated a woman outside his marriage. The woman gave birth to a baby boy. Sadly, the boy was born with serious health problems and passed away a few weeks after birth.
External link: Jose Feliciano Official Site