, better known as Cheo Feliciano
(born July 3, 1935 in Ponce
Ponce is both a city and a municipality in the southern part of Puerto Rico. The city is the seat of the municipal government.The city of Ponce, the fourth most populated in Puerto Rico, and the most populated outside of the San Juan metropolitan area, is named for Juan Ponce de León y Loayza, the...
, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...
), is a composer and singer of salsa
Salsa music is a genre of music, generally defined as a modern style of playing Cuban Son, Son Montuno, and Guaracha with touches from other genres of music...
The music of Puerto Rico has been influenced by the Spanish, African, Taíno Indians, France, and the United States, and has become very popular across the Caribbean and across the globe...
Feliciano (birth name: José Luis Feliciano Vega
) was raised and educated in the city of Ponce, which is located in the southern part of Puerto Rico. As a child, he was nicknamed "Cheo" by his family - a name which means José and is a term normally only used by close friends and family. However, the name stuck and became part of his everyday name (using the nickname avoids confusion with José Feliciano
José Feliciano is a Puerto Rican singer, virtuoso guitarist and composer known for many international hits including the 1970 holiday single "Feliz Navidad".-Childhood:...
, another major Puerto Rican singer to whom he is not related). At a young age he was influenced by the bolero music of the Trio Los Panchos
Los Panchos was an internationally famous Latin pop trio known for its romantic ballads and boleros.-History:...
. When he was only eight years old he formed his first group with his friends and named it "El Combo Las Latas". They were so poor that their musical instruments were made out of cans. Feliciano attended the Free School of Music in Ponce after finishing his primary education where he studied and became a percussionist.
In 1952, Feliciano moved with his family to New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...
and settled down in Spanish Harlem
East Harlem, also known as Spanish Harlem and El Barrio, is a section of Harlem in the northeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. East Harlem is one of the largest predominantly Latino communities in New York City. It includes the area formerly known as Italian Harlem, in which...
. Here he auditioned as a percussionist in the "Ciro Rimac's Review" band - giving him his first professional musical job. Bandleader
A bandleader is the leader of a band of musicians. The term is most commonly, though not exclusively, used with a group that plays popular music as a small combo or a big band, such as one which plays jazz, blues, rhythm and blues or rock and roll music....
Tito Rodríguez was a popular 1950s and 1960s Puerto Rican singer and bandleader. He is known by many fans as "El Inolvidable" , a moniker based on his most popular interpretation, a song written by composer Julio Gutierrez.-Early years:Rodríguez , born in Santurce, Puerto Rico,...
, heard Feliciano play and offered him a job in his orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...
; this he accepted but after playing for some time with Tito, he left the band to play the conga
The conga, or more properly the tumbadora, is a tall, narrow, single-headed Cuban drum with African antecedents. It is thought to be derived from the Makuta drums or similar drums associated with Afro-Cubans of Central African descent. A person who plays conga is called a conguero...
for Luis Cruz. Despite leaving he always remained on friendly terms with Tito. Feliciano also played percussionist for Kako y su Trabuco orchestra. He was also a roadie for Mon Rivera
Mon Rivera is the common name given to two distinct Puerto Rican musicians , namely Monserrate Rivera Alers and his oldest son, Efraín Rivera Castillo Mon Rivera is the common name given to two distinct Puerto Rican musicians (both born in Mayagüez), namely Monserrate Rivera Alers (originally...
In 1955, Rodríguez found out that Joe Cuba
Joe "Sonny" Cuba was a Puerto Rican musician who was considered to be the "Father of Latin Boogaloo".-Early years:...
was in need of a singer for his sextet. Aware that Feliciano was also a talented singer, he recommended Cuba that he try out for the position. Feliciano auditioned and became a vocalist for the Joe Cuba Sextet. He was the rare baritone
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...
among salsa singers, and his deep voice and quick wit as an improviser made him a favorite among the Latino public.
On October 5, 1957, Feliciano made his professional singing debut with the song "Perfidia" (he was also married on that same day). He sang for the sextet for a total of 10 years. In 1967, he joined the Eddie Palmieri Orchestra
Eddie Palmieri , is a Grammy Award winning Puerto Rican pianist, bandleader and musician, best known for combining jazz piano and instrumental solos with Latin rhythms.-Early years:...
and sang for them for two years. However, an increasing addiction
The section about substance dependence in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not use the word addiction at all. It explains:...
threatened his life and career. He decided to cure himself "cold turkey" and eventually join Puerto Rico's rehabilitation center, Hogares CREA. Feliciano credits Tite Curet Alonso
Tite Curet Alonso was a renowned composer of over 2,000 salsa songs.- Early years :Born Catalino Curet Alonso in the southern town of Guayama in Puerto Rico. Alonso's mother was a seamtress and his father a Spanish teacher and musician in the band of Simon Madera...
, the author of most of his hits and his best friend, with pushing him through his rehabilitation. As a result, he is a candid (and vehement) anti-drug spokesperson, who has volunteered to assist in the rehabilitation of fellow salsa artists who fall prey to drug addiction.
In 1972, Feliciano came back to music and made album "Cheo", his first solo recording, which broke all sales records in the Latino music market. The album included:
Anacaona , also called the Golden Flower, was a Taíno cacica , sister of Bohechío, chief of Jaragua, and wife of Caonabo, chief of the nearby territory of Maguana, two of the five highest caciques who ruled the island of Hispaniola when the Spaniards settled there in 1492...
- "Mi Triste Problema" (My Sad Problem).
During the 1970s, Feliciano recorded for the "Fania Record Co." and had "Hits" with "Amada Mia" (My Love) and "Juan Albañil". He also participated in the first salsa opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...
In 1982, Feliciano formed his own recording company called "Coche Records" and in 1985 he became the first tropical singer to perform at the Amira de la Rosa Theater in Barranquilla, Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...
. In 1987, he landed the role of Roberto Clemente
Roberto Clemente Walker was a Puerto Rican Major League Baseball right fielder. He was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, the youngest of seven children. Clemente played his entire 18-year baseball career with the Pittsburgh Pirates . He was awarded the National League's Most Valuable Player Award in...
's father in the musical "Clemente".
In 1990, Feliciano recorded the bolero album titled "Los "Feelings" de Cheo" a romantic music album. 17 years had past since his all bolero recordings of La Voz Sensual and Looking for Love, both recorded in Buenos Aires, Argentina and orchestrated and arranged by Maestro Jorge Calandreli. He has traveled all over Europe,Japan, Africa, and South America. In Venezuela, he had a reunion with Eddie Palmieri. In 1995, Feliciano won a Platinum Record Award for "La Combinación Perfecta" (The Perfect Combination).
In 2000, Feliciano recorded "Una Voz, Mil Recuerdos" (One Voice, A Thousand Memories) as a tribute to various Puerto Rican singers. The album was named among the 20 outstanding recordings of the year by the National Foundation of the Popular Culture of Puerto Rico. In 2002, he recorded "Cheo en la Intimidad". Currently Feliciano is working with Panamanian singer and actor Ruben Blades. This production will have them singing each others' music. A Release date has not been determined. Feliciano is still very active and continues to travel and perform all over the world.
During the years, he enjoyed successes with the following "hits",:
- "A las Seis" (At Six),
- "Como Ríen" (How They Laughed),
- "El Pito (I'll Never Go Back To Georgia)" and
- "El Ratón" (The Mouse), which he composed.
- "Los Feelings the Cheo"
- "Un Solo Beso"
- "With a Little help From My friend (1973)"
Awards and recognitions
Over the years, Cheo Feliciano has received the following recognitions:
- 1975-The Golden Cup-Venezuela,
- 1976-"Most Popular Artist" by Latin New York magazine,
- 1977-Daily News Front Page Award "Best Latin Vocalist",
- 1985-Owl of Gols-Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...
, The Silver Chin Award-Miami
Miami is a city located on the Atlantic coast in southeastern Florida and the county seat of Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in Florida and the eighth-most populous county in the United States with a population of 2,500,625...
, A Golden Agueybana Award-Puerto Rico,
- 1983 & 1984-Honorable Son of Ponce,
- 1999-A tribute in his honor from the Puerto Rican Senate.
- 2008- In honor of 50 years in the music industry, Michael Bloomberg (Mayor of New York at the time)
declared June 20 Cheo Feliciano Day in New York City.
- 2008-Grammy for Excellence in Music at the Latin Grammy Awards.
- In Ponce, he is recognized at the Park for the Illustrious Ponce Citizens.
Cheo Feliciano currently resides in Puerto Rico and continues to record boleros. He is also the anti-drugs spokesperson for the Government of Puerto Rico
The Government of Puerto Rico is a republican form of government subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sovereignty. Its current powers are all delegated by the United States Congress and lack full protection under the United States Constitution...
- List of famous Puerto Ricans
- Black history in Puerto Rico