“For some reason, this little song has united everyone,” musician Jose Feliciano recently told NBC’s “TODAY” show. “Nobody can get angry that you made them sing ‘Feliz Navidad’ because it’s in Spanish. Nobody can get angry because you made them sing the English part.”
Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
CBS “Sunday Morning” contributor Kelefa Sanneh asked Feliciano, “When you were writing ‘Feliz Navidad,’ were you thinking, this will be great to have a Christmas song that’s in Spanish and also in English? Was that part of the idea?”
“We thought there’s gotta be a way of teaching the American people Spanish,” Feliciano replied, “and I decided, let’s see if we could cross that bridge. And we did.”
“Feliz Navidad” is one of the most played and recorded Christmas songs in the world. It was part of Feliciano’s 1970 self-titled holiday album, later renamed “Feliz Navidad.”
Produced by Rick Jarrard, the song was recorded in October 1970 and released a month later but did not hit the Billboard Hot 100 until 1998. It hit the Top 100 again in 2017, and again in 2019, and has been named one of the top 25 most played and recorded Christmas songs by ASCAP.
Feliciano said missing his family and Noche Buena celebrations inspired him to write the Christmas classic.
“It was expressing the joy that I felt on Christmas and the fact that I felt very lonely,” he said in a Dec. 14 NPR article. “I missed my family, I missed Christmas carols with them. I missed the whole Christmas scene.”
Born blind in Puerto Rico, José Monserrate Feliciano García moved with his family to Spanish Harlem in New York in 1950 when he was five years old.
Feliciano has lived in Fairfield County, Connecticut with his wife and family since 1990.
(Cover photo credit: Spectrum News)