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There can't be many Anglos in the 45-60 age bracket who don't remember the beguiling strains of Jose Feliciano's 1969 version of the Doors hit "Light My Fire." The number propelled the Puerto Rican guitarist-singer into the public eye and bestowed upon him iconic status for all eternity. On August 4 and 5, Feliciano will perform at Tel Aviv's Zappa club as part of the venue's third birthday celebrations.
Feliciano's career is a classic tale of rags to riches. He was born blind, one of 11 children, and his family relocated to Spanish Harlem in New York City when Feliciano was nine. The Felicianos were not exactly rich and the youngster left school at 17 and began to play at clubs all over the States as a means of supporting his family.
Feliciano's instrumental skills and captivating vocals quickly achieved wide recognition, and he traveled to Argentina to record two Spanish albums, both of which did well in the charts there. However, it was not all plain sailing. In 1967, bureaucracy prevented Feliciano from performing in the UK when the British authorities said he would have to place his guide dog in quarantine. Feliciano responded by recording a number called "No Dogs Allowed," which made the US Billboard charts.
Controversy reared its ugly head again in 1968, when at the height of the anti-Vietnam War protest movement, Feliciano was asked to perform "The Star Spangled Banner" at Tiger Stadium during that's years World Series. His highly particular slow Latin-esque rendition was considered unpatriotic by some, although others appreciated the emotional aspects of the performance, and Feliciano became something of a counter-culture hero (ten months later, Jimi Hendrix caused an even bigger uproar when he played his own off-the-wall version of the national anthem at Woodstock).
But it was Feliciano's reading of "Light My Fire" which not only gave him superstar status, it also boosted the Doors' popularity. Over the last four decades, Feliciano has continued to perform all over the globe and picked up no less than six Grammy Awards in the process.
Jose Feliciano will appear at the Zappa Club in Tel Aviv on August 4 and 5 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. both nights. For ticket information, call (03) 649-9550.
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