In 1968, most radio-listening teens divided into two camps—those who dug the Doors' Light My Fire from a year earlier and those who preferred José Feliciano's cover. The Doors' original had plenty of zip, but if you couldn't drive yet, lived in a major city and were a creature of AM radio, you probably didn't quite get the Doors' far-out message or sound yet. Jose's version, by contrast, was more urban and soulful, making a terrific song gorgeous by slowing it down and putting his heart into it. To this day, few intros to singles are as exciting and as sensual as the Spanish guitar chords that José plays at the start, not to mention the flute and strings that join him.
José is fond of turning most things into a pun—a way of finding the lighter side of things. He also is sensitive about his blindness, making sure you know that his lack of sight isn't a disability. He experiences his house and life differently. After all, he says, you can't see what he sees. José lived in Orange County, California, for years, so the propsect of moving to chilly Connecticut was a bit daunting at first back in the 1990s. But he made the move for his wife Susan, and he has loved the sounds and smells of nature that surround their home ever since. He's originally from New York, so the ability to go into the city still excited him. [Above, photo of José and Susan Feliciano in their kitchen by Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal]
In today's Wall Street Journal, I talk with José about his home in Connecticut and the fire he likes to light now. Go here.
JazzWax clip: Here's José singing Light My Fire...