Jose Feliciano spends two thirds of the year touring, but he always tries to spend Halloween at home in Orange County.
"It's kind of a tradition around our house," explained the blind singer/guitarist, who lives in Villa Park. "We always invite all the kids in the neighborhood over, and this year we had over 500! I love it because it really makes me stop and think, 'Wow, Jose, you sure are lucky to be in a position to do this for the kids every year.' "
Feliciano, 42, and an Orange County resident since 1966, will be performing for the hometown crowd Thursday and Friday nights, at the Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa with Doc Severinson and the Pacific Symphony. He is still best known for his 1968 remake of the Doors' "Light My Fire" and for the Christmas classic "Feliz Navidad" he wrote in 1969. In the 18 years since he topped the charts, however, he has more than kept busy, releasing albums in Spanish and English, touring as a soloist and with orchestras, even writing a symphony of his own, entitled "Mozartean Influence," as well as producing music for the sound track to the movie "Aaron Loves Angela" (not to mention writing the theme song from the old television series "Chico and the Man.")
Feliciano's latest album is "Tu Inmenso Amor"; the single from it, "Ponte a Cantar," is second on the Billboard Latin music charts. Recording in more than one language, he feels, "puts me at a career advantage. After all, it gives me a dual career--actually a triple career, if you count my instrumental works as a language in itself!" In keeping with his three languages, Feliciano has three record contracts--with Manhattan Records, Angel Records and EMI Records, for pop, classical and Latin music, respectively.
He was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York City at age 5. His first musical instrument was the accordion but, under the influence of '50s pop records, he soon taught himself to play guitar. In the early '60s, he played the Greenwich Village folk club circuit that also spawned Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel. "It was a really, really great time and place to grow up," Feliciano says. "I think that's what's lacking nowadays for young people--there's no place for young talent to develop. I mean, discos aren't quite the same thing."
Feliciano was discovered in the folk circuit at 18 by an RCA executive who saw star potential in his virtuoso guitar-style and fiery vocalizing. Feliciano remembers playing at the Golden Bear, in Huntington Beach, with Hoyt Axton and other singer/songwriters in the late '60s. "That was a really great club," he says, "a really cool place to hang out."
Currently, Feliciano spends his time flying between Europe and America, touring and recording on both continents. He just finished performing with the East Berlin Symphony and the Vienna Symphony, and in September was awarded a Victory of the Human Spirit Award by Nancy Reagan in Washington.
He'll be honored--along with Gale Storm, the Righteous Brothers, and Steve Martin--with a star on Orange County's own "Walk of Stars" Thursday morning, in a ceremony at the Anaheim Hilton.
Jose Feliciano and Doc Severinson will join the Pacific Symphony at the Orange County Performing Arts Center Nov. 5 and 6 at 8 p.m.. Tickets: $15 to $47. Information: (714) 556-2787.