Jose Feliciano lights a yuletide fire at the Howard Theatre

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

Classic holiday songs come along maybe once a generation, if that. All the more reason for Jose Feliciano to sing out his "Feliz Navidad" this Friday evening at the historic Howard Theatre.

"I've been so fortunate that I wrote a Christmas song that, so far, is standing the test of time," said the 67-year-old singer, composer and guitarist. "I wrote it, however, never knowing that. I was doing a Christmas album and I thought it was time for a new Christmas song, and so that particular song has become a standard."

Indeed, along with many more since Feliciano took up the guitar and made his first public appearance at the Bronx's El Teatro Puerto Rico at the age of 9.

It wasn't until 1968, however, on the album titled simply "Feliciano!" that he scored a breakthrough hit with a soulful and sultry rendition of the Doors' "Light My Fire" that skyrocketed him into mainstream pop superstardom. More albums followed in 1969, along with a Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

Onstage
Jose Feliciano's 'Holiday Feliz Navidad Show'
» Where: The Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW
» When: 8 p.m. Friday
» Info: $38.50 to $42; 202-803-2899; thehowardtheatre.com

Forty-three years later, with more than 65 albums in both English and Spanish to his credit, he has just released his latest this year, titled "The King, Jose Feliciano Tribute to Elvis Presley." However, it was "Senor Bolero," released in 1997, that marked a return to his musical roots. The sounds of the bolero allowed him to revel in the classic Latin music that in many ways defined him as an artist.

Prior to his popularity in America, Latin pop music was virtually nonexistent, as Feliciano well recalls.

"The closest thing to Latin music was in 1959 when Ritchie Valens recorded a traditional Mexican song called 'La Bamba,' " he said. "Now there [are] a lot of very talented people out there, and if I was instrumental in making Latin music more acceptable, then I'm happy about it."

For his performance at the Howard, Feliciano will bring along his band, which includes two keyboardists, a drummer and a percussionist. He will play both acoustic and electric guitar.

"I'll include a couple of Christmas songs, but it's not a Christmas show per se," he explained. "There will be all kinds of music, [and] it's going to be a swinging show."

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