Despite all the awards he’s received, all the hit records he’s made, all the impact he’s had on popular culture, Jose Feliciano is immediately recognized by a large segment of the population as the man who changed the National Anthem.
In 1968 at Game 5 of the World Series between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals, Feliciano opened with a highly stylized version of the Anthem, one that went on to become a Top 40 hit, and one that opened the doors to nearly 50 years and counting of its being sung with a dazzling array of arrangements and vocal pyrotechnics.
It was a defining moment in the career of Feliciano, who makes a rare appearance Saturday, April 25 at Harrah’s Tahoe, but only one in a series of milestones. There was the Mar del Plata Festival in Argentina in 1966 where he sang and was noticed by RCA, leading to hits “Poquita Fe” and “Usted.” There was his takeover of the classic Doors’ song, “Light My Fire.” And there was the heavy injection of Spanish music into Christmas with the now-standard “Feliz Navidad.”
Currently, Feliciano’s musical accents can be heard in the History Channel’s “Texas Rising,” produced by the same team that made “Hatfields & McCoys” and features Bill Paxton and Kris Kristofferson. It premieres Memorial Day, Monday, May 25th and runs for five episodes.
With five decades in the spotlight, Feliciano was probably best and most simply summed up by Steve Buscemi’s character in “Fargo,” who said when you see him perform, “YOU GOT NO COMPLAINTS!”
By Mel Shields, Sacramento Bee Correspondent