The man who put Latin pop on the holiday music map has returned with his first new yuletide song in 50 years.
In 1970, singer-songwriter José Feliciano released his “Feliz Navidad,” which went on to become the top bilingual holiday song worldwide and is one of the best-selling holiday tunes of all time. It was added to the Grammy Fall of Fame in 2010. In 2019, Forbes magazine declared “Feliz Navidad” as the “gift that keeps on giving,” a statement proven true again when which it reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2020.
On Nov. 4, Feliciano, a nine-time Grammy winner (including best new artist in 1968), released his latest album, “Love & Christmas” (Anthem Records), on all streaming services. The disc features “Viva La Navidad,” the first new Christmas song written and performed by Feliciano in more than 50 years. The uptempo “Viva La Navidad” serves as the cornerstone of this new collection of songs that celebrate the joy of the holiday season.
“Love & Christmas” expresses the enduring themes of his life: passion, inclusiveness, community and family. Other tracks are renditions of classic songs such as Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody,” here featuring “American Idol” finalist Haley Reinhart.
“Feliz Navidad” was originally recorded with producer Rick Jarrard in October 1970 and released one month later on RCA Records. Feliciano came up with the track after Jarrard (who died in 2021) asked him to write a holiday song. “I think what made ‘Feliz Navidad’ such a favorite is the simplicity of the song,” Feliciano said in an interview with grammy.com. “The song, in total lyric-wise, has only 19 words.”
Feliciano deliberately made the song bilingual because “if I had left it in Spanish only, then I knew the English [radio] stations might not play it,” he told billboard.com. “So I decided to write an English lyric, ‘I want to wish you a merry Christmas.’ And then there was no way the stations could lock that song out of the programming.”