We Sit Down With José Feliciano To Discuss the 50th Anniversary of His Christmas Masterpiece, ‘Feliz Navidad’
Photo by Debra L Rothenberg/Getty Images
It’s that time of year again! You know, the time of the year when everyone and their madre plays “Feliz Navidad” on repeat. And can you blame them? José Feliciano’s timeless earworm is the literal embodiment of the Christmas spirit. It’s fun, festive and–most importantly–irresistibly catchy.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of José Feliciano’s Christmas masterpiece, “Feliz Navidad”.
“Feliz Navidad” debuted in 1970 and became an instant classic. Since its release, the song dominated first the radio airwaves and now all streaming platforms around the holidays.
To make matters more exciting, the bilingual bop has climbed the Billboard charts and, at the time of this publication, is currently sitting comfortably at No. 10–right under “Holy” by Justin Bieber. This marks the first time “Feliz Navidad” has ever cracked the chart’s top ten ranking.
Luckily for us, José Feliciano caught up with mitú about his legacy, his inspirations, and the ongoing success of “Feliz Navidad”.
About what makes “Feliz Navidad” a classic, Feliciano says it is the message behind the song that people resonate with.
“‘Feliz Navidad’ is a song of joy. It’s a song that people grew to love. And they grew to love it because of its simplicity and its joy,” he told mitú.
Feliciano said that writing “Feliz Navidad” was simply a matter of deciding he wanted an original Christmas song on his Christmas album.
“[Producer Rick Jarrard] said to me, ‘You know, Jose, we need a Christmas song of your own on this album.’ And I said to Rick, ‘Rick, you know, I don’t know how I can compete.’ Because I’ve always been competitive. And Rick said to me, ‘Think of something and write a song.’ So, I did. And ‘Feliz Navidad’ was the victim.”
Despite hilariously calling “Feliz Navidad” a “victim” of his creativity, Feliciano said he is proud of having written the song.
Feliciano, who was born in Puerto Rico but moved to New York City at the age of 5, explained that part of what inspired “Feliz Navidad” was the songs that he listened to in his youth.
“‘Feliz Navidad’ came about from all of the Christmas music that I had listened to in Puerto Rico. Singers like Mario Moreno ‘Cantinflas’,” he told mitú. “The song came out of it because of what I remembered from the Christmas villancicos. The Christmas carols.”
Feliciano’s Puerto Rican heritage deeply influenced his musical sound–specifically his use of the cuatro in many of his songs.
Feliciano is famous for revolutionizing bolero music, adding elements of the blues and folk music into the popular Latin genre.
Feliciano, who was born blind, says he looked to music to give him a sense of belonging. “I used bolero music to cure my loneliness,” he told mitú. “I felt, at the time, that because I was blind, no woman was going to be interested in someone like me.”
“The guitar gave me a handsomeness that I never knew existed and if the guitar thought I was handsome, why shouldn’t I listen to it and play it?”
Now, in honor of “Feliz Navidad”‘s 50th Anniversary, Feliciano is will be streaming a concert this year.
Hosted by producer Rudy Perez, the concert will feature Feliciano singing Christmas classics–including, of course, “Feliz Navidad”.
Catch the livestream on December 20th at 7pm EST. Buy tickets here at www.feliznavidad50th.com before they sell out.