On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
Jose Feliciano's Feliz Navidad

There are a lot of things I dislike about the holiday season, the chief of which is the annual Christmas carol takeover of my local oldies radio station. When I want to hear the Turtles, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra synth-tastically serenades me. When I'm jonesing for Smokey Robinson, I get the cheesy Michael Bublé instead. It is precisely this annoying overplaying of bad pop masquerading as cheerful holiday goodness that makes pap like Josh Groban's collection of Christmas songs the biggest selling record of 2007. Could I feel less connected to humanity this time of year? I'm not a complete grinch, though. There is one tune I am always happy to hear return to US radio every year: José Feliciano's classic "Feliz Navidad". With it's Bilingual lyrics, felicitous horns, and upbeat, universally appealing message “Feliz Navidad” is the Taco Bell of Christmas songs and I mean that in the best possible way.

José Feliciano is a Puerto Rican musician, blind since his birth in 1945. He has enjoyed a long and successful career in both Spanish and English language markets. A genre hopping guitarist, Feliciano's musical output ranges from traditional Latin styles and rhythms to straight rock 'n roll and pop. He recorded an excellent jazzy cover of "Light My Fire", which was praised by the song's author, the Doors' Robbie Krieger and went to number three on the pop charts in 1968. His most well known song has to be "Feliz Navidad", which was written in 1970 and incorporates a traditional Spanish blessing with a similarly simple English lyric. In an interview with NPR Feliciano explains that he wrote the lyrics originally in Spanish but decided to write English verses to give the song a chance of being played on both Spanish and English radio.

The song, according to ASCAP, is one of the most ubiquitous songs of the holiday season. It has been covered an impressive number of times and by such artists as Celine Dion, class of 2008 Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductees the Ventures, Chicago, and Aussie children's band the Wiggles, who actually have passable Spanish pronunciation. Even if you've heard the song a million times (and you probably have), thanks to the wonders of the modern age a.k.a youtube, a video of Feliciano performing the song live for a Danish audience in 1973 is instantly available to counteract the deadly onset of holiday song fatigue. Featuring just Feliciano on acoustic guitar with a bassist and a drummer for a band, the performance is a revelation. Stripped of the horns and bouncy backbeat, “Feliz Navidad” becomes a genuinely affecting almost acoustic pop song perfect for sing-alongs even if you don't know Spanish. Feliciano slips in a spontaneous and seamless shout out to the Scandanavian countries en Español, proving that the heartfelt sentiments expressed in “Feliz Navidad” cross all cultural borders. Finally, it feels like Christmas.

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