CULTURE

Jose Feliciano: A legend at Gazarte

As a singer, virtuoso guitarist and composer, Jose Feliciano?s efforts in music have been compensated in a number of ways: He is the recipient of eight Grammy Awards, a star on Hollywood?s Walk of Fame, while in the mid-1990s, New York City paid its own tribute by renaming the Public School 155 the Jose Feliciano Performing Arts School.

A legendary figure in the music industry, Feliciano?s success with both Spanish- and English-language songs has acted as a kind of bridge across cultural gaps. The artist is set to perform live for three evenings at the Gazarte club in Athens, from Thursday, February 3, to Saturday, February 5.

Born Jose Montserrate Feliciano Garcia in Lares, Puerto Rico in 1945, Feliciano moved to Spanish Harlem in New York with his family when he was 5. The artist was born blind due to congenital glaucoma.

Though his personal music journey took off on the accordion, the young Feliciano?s true calling became evident when his grandfather gave him a guitar as a present. By the age of 17, he had left school and started concentrating his efforts on live appearances at clubs. RCA Victor signed him on in 1963.

While songs like ?Feliz Navidad? (composed in 1970) established Feliciano as a composer of hits, the artist also boasts a long list of collaborations with artists ranging from John Lennon and Joni Mitchell to Yanni, Gloria Estefan and Natalie Cole.

In the turbulent year of 1968, Feliciano was invited to perform the US national anthem at Detroit?s Tiger Stadium during the pre-game ceremonies of the 1968 World Series. His slow Latin jazz rendering was deemed nothing short of highly controversial, leading to his music being banned from US music radio stations for the next three years.

In an interview with Kosmos radio station in Athens on Wednesday, February 2, Feliciano noted that at the time, his Latin take on ?The Star-Spangled Banner? had been his way of ?being a patriot.? Only in the United States, he said, would a Puerto Rican kid get the chance to break the rules in this way.

As for the Athens gigs, Feliciano will treat his audiences to one of his favorite tunes, ?Zorba the Greek? — only this time, Mikis Theodorakis?s song will be interpreted by Feliciano on the bouzouki.

Gazarte, 32 Voutadon, Gazi, tel 210.3452.277. For ticket reservations, visit www.i-ticket.gr and www.gazarte.gr.