Tag Archives: Jose Feliciano

06880 (Dan) And 06883 (Jose) Wish You…

Jose Feliciano, Mimi Levitt Launch New Pavilion

Saying “I look forward to returning for years to come,” 93-year-old Mimi Levitt shined with excitement as she welcomed Westport’s newest jewel: the refurbished Levitt pavilion.

The $9 million public/private project — propelled by a $4.5 million grant from the Levitt Foundation — represents a complete overhaul of an already intriguing downtown attraction.

With a soaring, sail-inspired, state-of-the-art stage; a killer sound system; amenities like dressing rooms, food concessions, ramps and restrooms — plus a completely renovated riverwalk that now extends all the way to the point behind the pavilion — this Levitt marks the 2nd transformation of a former landfill.

Parks and Rec, politicians, architects and construction folks all took their bows.

Then Jose Feliciano took over. His kick-butt show is just the start of a summer filled with entertainment.

And there was not a mosquito in sight.

A small portion of the large crowd, and the new Levitt stage.

A small portion of the large crowd, and the new Levitt stage.

The one and only Jose Feliciano. The Weston resident donated his fee to the Levitt building fund.

The one and only Jose Feliciano. The Weston resident donated his fee to the Levitt building fund.

The lawn was full -- but there was plenty of room to relax.

The lawn is full — but there’s still plenty of room to relax.

Mimi Levitt -- 93 years young -- and her daughter Liz Levitt Hirsch.

Mimi Levitt — 93 years young — and her daughter Liz Levitt Hirsch.

Dancing in the aisle, to Jose Feliciano.

Dancing on the grass, to Jose Feliciano.

Freda and Carleigh Welsh: 2 of the driving forces behind the Levitt Pavilion's success.

Freda and Carleigh Welsh: 2 of the driving forces behind the Levitt Pavilion’s success.

The new Levitt has real restrooms. And they are already in use.

The new Levitt has real restrooms. And they are already in use.

The landscaping extends beyond the stage, out to the point where the Levitt juts into the Saugatuck River. A newly enhanced riverwalk adds to the beauty.

The landscaping extends beyond the stage, out to the point where the Levitt juts into the Saugatuck River. A newly enhanced riverwalk adds to the beauty.

Doobies, Meatloaf, Buckwheat And Willie Share A Westport Stage

On Sunday, Jose Feliciano lights a (figurative) fire under the new Levitt Pavilion stage.

The singer/guitarist/songwriter is a very appropriate act for the already-sold-out grand opening of the redesigned bandshell (and — be still, my heart and bladder) actual bathrooms. He’s popular, talented and a fantastic performer.

Jose Feliciano (Photo/David Bravo)

Jose Feliciano (Photo/David Bravo)

But the Weston resident — who is donating his fee back to the pavilion’s building fund — is hardly the 1st Very Big Name to appear at the Levitt. In fact, a look back at nearly 40 years of headliners reads like a Billboard Who’s Who.

Foreigner. Frankie Valli. The Doobie Brothers. Southside Johnny. Blues Traveler. Tom Jones. Don McLean. Kenny Loggins. Smokey Robinson. Roberta Flack. Tito Puente. Judy Collins. Al Hirt. Cab Calloway. Andy Williams. Ray Charles. Count Basie. Buddy Rich. All have performed benefit concerts (the only time the Levitt sells tickets, though some folks sit on Jesup Green and enjoy the concerts gratis).

Some artists did not have to travel far. In fact, they could have walked to the Levitt. Michael Bolton, Ashford & Simpson, Meatloaf, Corky Laing and Neil Sedaka are Westporters who headlined Levitt shows. Dave Brubeck lived in Wilton.

Keith Richards

Keith Richards

Weston’s Keith Richards made a memorable appearance at a Willie Nelson concert. (Willie drove here in his famed tour bus.) Keith ambled onstage with his guitar, said “I’ve always wanted to play with Willie,” and performed 2 memorable duets. You can’t make this stuff up.

Some of the shows were not as memorable — hey, it happens. The Drifters and Temptations may have included an actual Drifter and Tempt, but they were clearly past their sell-by date.

So were the Beach Boys, who had the misfortune of being moved to the stifling Staples fieldhouse because of bad weather.

Chuck Berry and Little Richard were the actual guys, but they too were a bit long in the tooth.

Yet those few dogs are more than overshadowed by the dozens of great shows. Not many suburban towns boast open-air, summer shows by Huey Lewis & the News, America, Dave Mason, the Four Tops, Dickey Betts, the Chieftains, Chuck Mangione, John Sebastian, Robert Goulet and Tony Bennett.

Buckwheat Zydeco

Buckwheat Zydeco

My favorite memory, though, may be Buckwheat Zydeco. It’s a long way from Louisiana to Westport, and this might have been the whitest audience he ever saw. But he and his band — with their accordion, guitar, keyboard and (my favorite) washboard — had hedge fund managers, housewives (and househusbands) dancing in the grassy aisles.

Those aisles are now re-sodded. There’s a new stage, concession stands, and (did I mention this earlier?) actual bathrooms.

On Sunday, there will also be Jose Feliciano. And the start of another 4 decades of remarkable entertainment, down by the river.

(No free tickets remain for Sunday’s Jose Feliciano concert. To join the wait list, email levitt@westportct.gov. The lawn opens to ticket-holders at 5 pm. Click the Levitt Pavilion website to see more upcoming attractions. )




Jose Feliciano Lights Up The Levitt

It’s been a while.

But the Levitt Pavilion — for 40 years a Westport summer treasure — is almost ready to open its new facility. The handsome bandshell (with lush new lawn) will burnish our reputation as a town that loves arts and entertainment, and is always ready to host a good time.

So it’s very appropriate that the grand opening event features a hometown hero: Jose Feliciano.

(I know, he lives in Weston. But he’s real close to the Westport border.)

Jose Feliciano (Photo/David Bravo)

Jose Feliciano (Photo/David Bravo)

The 9-time Grammy winner/Hollywood Walk of Fame star/namesake of New York’s Jose Feliciano Performing Arts School/Billboard Magazine Lifetime Achievement awardee/Baseball Hall of Fame honoree (for his 1968 World Series rendition of the national anthem)/and writer-singer-guitarist of “Feliz Navidad” — perhaps the most popular Christmas song ever recorded — takes the stage on Sunday, July 20 for the 1st-ever performance at the new Levitt.

And — because Jose Feliciano is not just a fantastic artist, but a phenomenal human being — he will donate his fee to the ongoing Campaign for a New Levitt Pavilion.

Doors open — okay, the restraining rope will be lowered — at 5 p.m. A ribbon cutting ceremony takes place at 6. And then, at 7, Jose Feliciano will light our fire.

(The event is free. However, tickets will be issued in advance, beginning Tuesday, July 8, online at http://www.levittpavilion.com and at the Pavilion office, in the Parks and Recreation Department office at Longshore.)

Jose Feliciano and his wife Susan, at home in Weston.  (Photo/Dorothy Hong for Wall Street Journal)

Jose Feliciano and his wife Susan, at home in Weston. (Photo/Dorothy Hong for Wall Street Journal)

Wall Street Journal Knows Where We Live

From the ultra-modern to the very old, today’s Wall Street Journal is all over Westport and Weston.

A feature story on homes with the latest high-end amenity — “freshly circulated, highly scrubed air” — highlights Doug Mcdonald’s “passive house.”

The paper reports:

In suburban areas, a handful of high-end developers of single-family homes are promoting their project’s indoor-air quality. In tony Westport, Conn., a 5,800-square-foot Colonial-style house that will soon list for $2.8 million was built using “passive house” building methods that minimize energy usage with a mathematically precise, airtight building technique, and the strategic placement of high-performance windows to take advantage of daylight and shade.

Doug Mcdonald's passive house, off Roseville Road. It was formerly owned by Oscar Levant. (Photo/Claudio Papapietro for Wall Street Journal)

Doug Mcdonald lives in this passive house, off Roseville Road. Before retrofitting, it was owned by Oscar Levant. Doug has built another passive house in Colonial style,  which is currently on the market. (Photo/Claudio Papapietro for Wall Street Journal)

Inside, the air will be filtered through a two air-exchangers, says Douglas Mcdonald, the founder of the Pure House, the company that built the home. Pollen-free fresh air will circulate into living and sleeping spaces; other air will be removed from kitchens and bathrooms, where odors tend to accumulate the most.

“The air quality is amazing,” says Mr. Mcdonald. Paint, flooring and cabinetry will be made from chemical-free materials to eliminate what Mr. Mcdonald describes as harmful off-gassing. He estimates that the speculatively built home, slated to be completed in September, is priced about 10% higher than a traditionally built house.

(I should note that the WSJ is 2 years too late to this passive house party. “06880” reported on it in March 2012.)

Meanwhile, a few pages away, the paper gives a shout-out to a very different home.

Jose Feliciano lives in — and loves — a 1730 Weston landmark. The internationally renowned, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter.guitarist (“Feliz Navidad,” “Light My Fire”) is as passionate about his historic, lovely home — a former tavern –as Mcdonald is about his engineering marvel.

Jose Feliciano and his wife Susan in their very comfortable kitchen. (Photo/Dorothy Hong for Wall Street Journal)

Jose Feliciano and his wife Susan in their very comfortable kitchen. (Photo/Dorothy Hong for Wall Street Journal)

Feliciano describes his 5-acre property, including a gazebo and barn that’s now a recording studio:

People who don’t know me assume I move around our house gingerly. But being blind doesn’t mean I can’t see. I have a photographic memory and know exactly where everything is. The house is an old, soulful place that creaks and reminds me of my aunt’s home in the Bronx that I used to visit as a boy. It has character.

Our floors creak beautifully … because they’re made of different types of wood. The floors upstairs are pine while downstairs the dining-room floor is pear, the working kitchen is oak and the floor in the kitchen’s dining area is cherry.

Upstairs, the pine floorboards are original to the house, and many are as wide as 20 inches. Back in the 1700s, it was illegal for colonists to take down trees larger than 12 inches in diameter. They were considered property of the king, who needed large trees for ship masts since much of England’s forests were exhausted. Royal surveyors would mark large trees to keep them off-limits, but colonists took them down anyway in protest and used them for upstairs floors, where they’d be out of sight.

Jose Feliciano in his home recording studio. He has a new album out this summer. (Photo/Dorothy Hong for Wall Street Journal)

Jose Feliciano in his home recording studio. He has a new album out this summer. (Photo/Dorothy Hong for Wall Street Journal)

Our house has four working fireplace. My favorite is in the kitchen. When we make fires there in the cold months, I sit in the rocking chair Susan gave me when we were first dating and listen to the wood burning. I hear the sap sizzling and the logs snapping. It makes me imagine how hard life must have been hundreds of years ago. I also like playing guitar and composing in front of the fire, which warms my soul.

Last fall, we had to take down an old maple tree that was near the power lines, so now we have eight cords of wood. I love feeling the seasons change. In the spring, I smell the greenery and hear things coming alive, like the songbirds and sparrows. The Saugatuck River is just 50-feet wide here and cuts through our backyard, so I can hear the river’s motion and cascading waterfall from our bedroom. The water attracts river otters, deer and wild turkeys to our land. Summer has its own vibrant sounds.

I also love hearing my neighbors going about their lives. Our house is private and remote, but we’re not isolated. We wouldn’t want that. When you isolate yourself too much, you lose your compassion for others. I don’t ever want that to happen to us.

Westport and Weston are filled with intriguing homes. Some were built yesterday; others have stood for centuries. Unwittingly today, the Wall Street Journal has shown the world those 2 extremes.

(Hat tip to John Karrel)

Jose Feliciano: Far More Than ‘Feliz Navidad’

“Feliz Navidad” — the jingly-jangly, ever-popular holiday tune — is the 1st thing most people associate with Jose Feliciano.

The Puerto Rican-born guitarist/singer/composer — and longtime Weston resident — has done much more, of course. He produced a great version of “Light My Fire,” played for the pope, and performed the 1st-ever non-traditional version of the “Star-Spangled Banner” at a sports event. (The 1968 World Series — and though it was controversial at the time, it set the stage for all the Whitney Houstons who followed.)

Feliciano is more than a 1-trick pony when it comes to Christmas songs, too. Check out this beautiful “Cancion de Navidad.” He accompanies Silvio Rodriguez on guitar. (Click on the “Playlist” on the upper left corner of the YouTube video for Jose’se song.)

(Click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube.)

Thanks, Jose. After listening to this, there’s only 1 thing left to say:

Feliz Navidad!

Feliz Jose!

In a recording and touring career spanning nearly 50 years, Jose Feliciano has been honored in more ways than he can count.

Feliz Navidad” is one of the most popular Christmas songs in the world. His version of “Light My Fire” hit #1 worldwide, and earned him the first 2 of his 8 career Grammys.

He has a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and his hands were cast by Madame Tussaud. New York City named a performing arts school after him. He’s performed at virtually every major venue on earth, and draws enormous, adoring crowds everywhere.

Jose Feliciano

But on Sunday, April 29 (5:30 p.m., Continental Manor, Norwalk), the singer/guitarist/composer — and longtime Weston resident — will be feted in a way that means as much to him as anything else he’s accomplished.

The Boy Scouts of America’s Connecticut Yankee Council has named Jose Feliciano one of its Distinguished Citizens. He’ll join Rev. John Branson of Christ & Holy Trinity Church; longtime Scout leader Alan Stolz, and Santa Energy CEO Tom Santa as honorees for their commitment to community.

Local Eagle Scouts will be honored too. That means a lot: Jose’s son Mikey isthisclose to becoming an Eagle Scout himself.

Growing up on the Lower East Side, Jose’s brothers were involved in Boy Scouts through the Henry Street Settlement. His older son Jonathan was a Cub Scout. Now, through Mikey, Jose and his wife Susan have gotten involved in many Boy Scout projects.

“It’s a great organization for kids,” Jose says. “It teaches them a lot of things, including morality.”

Mikey Feliciano

Mikey joined Westport’s Troop 100 because he loved the outdoors. He earned his Life Scout quicker than nearly anyone in the troop ever had. Now, as quartermaster, he’s helping younger Scouts.

Mikey’s Eagle project is rehabbing Keene Park, on Weston’s River Road. It’s a 100-hour effort — at least — but he’s got some help. Including his family.

The Boy Scouts have given Mikey “a sense of responsibility, and respect for the country,” he says. A recent trip to Washington, DC ws particularly inspiring.

He credits Scouting with making him “more outgoing,” too.

Until last November, Troop 36 met at the Saugatuck Congregational Church. The pre-Thanksgiving fire destroyed much of their equipment — though not their Eagle Scout plaque, or their spirit. They meet now at the Christian Science church on South Compo, and do their CPR training at the Westport police station.

Mikey — a junior — is being home schooled. He also travels with his father. He’s played bass with him on stages as varied as the Kennedy Center, Austria and Korea.

They’ve also appeared at Weston High School, and the Georgetown Saloon’s open mic Thursdays.

Jose Feliciano is an internationally revered star. In Westport and Weston, he’s just as respected for his many community service activities.

His son Mikey is following in those big footsteps.

So will they perform together at the Yankee Council dinner later this month?

“My dad asked me if I wanted to play,” Mikey says. “But I may be too busy working.”

(The 2012 Distinguished Citizens Awards Reception is Sunday, April 29, 5:30 p.m. at Continental Manor in Norwalk. For ticket information, contact Tony Vogl: 203-876-6868, ext. 259; tony.vogl@scouting.org)

Feliz Navidad (Part 2)

After years of flying under the radar, Jose Feliciano is back in the news.

Jose Feliciano

Hot on the heels of our “06880” report on his low-key Christmas shows for the elderly, a web site has apologized to him for parodying “Feliz Navidad.”

Earlier this month Human Events.com — a conservative site that finds a cloud in every silver lining– posted “The Illegal Alien Christmas Song,” anti-immigrant rant to the tune of the Puerto Rico-born singer’s mega-hit.  He said he had written his song — sung in English and Spanish — “to create a bridge between two wonderful cultures, (not) as a political platform of racism and hate.”  He said he was “revolted beyond words.”

Human Events mumbled something to the effect that they “regret any offense that Mr. Feliciano may have taken from this parody.”

Right.  And that sound you hear is the Human Events office sitting around the Weston resident’s living room, softly singing “Kumbaya.”

Feliz Navidad! Gracias Jose Feliciano y Bill Rother

If they’re lucky, most nursing home residents sing Christmas carols with a couple of karaoke wannabes.

Fairfield County residents get an annual show with Jose Feliciano and Bill Rother.

Jose Feliciano (left) and Bill Rother

Feliciano, of course, is the musician who wrote and recorded “Feliz Navidad,” one of the 10 most popular Christmas songs of all time.  (His version of “Light My Fire” also hit #3 on the American pop charts.)

Rother played guitar in the 1950s with the then-famous Fred Waring & his Pennsylvanians.  They did lots of live television, including “Ed Sullivan”; they also performed at the White House for President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth.

When Feliciano moved to Weston — where Rother lived — they met through Mark Graham’s WMMM radio show.  Rother was then in the midst of a 40-year career with Tauck Tours.

After Rother retired, Feliciano asked him to become his tour manager.  Rother had no desire to get back on the road — he’d already seen over 100 countries — but the singer assured him there wouldn’t be much traveling.

In their first year together, they went around the world.  Twice.

Some years ago, Feliciano’s mother-in-law was in the Wilton Meadows nursing home.  He and Rother did a Christmas show there.

The residents had such a good time — and the duo enjoyed themselves so much — they’ve made it a holiday tradition of their own.  Each year — very quietly, because they don’t want a lot of hoopla beforehand — they perform for area seniors.

This year they did shows at the Westport Health Care Center (formerly Mediplex), as well as nursing homes in Darien and Greenwich.  Last week, they starred at the Assumption Church senior luncheon.

The senior citizens like the energetic, up-tempo Feliciano.  But they love Rother.

“I play all of the old stuff, from World War II,” Rother says, with a playful jab at his friend.  “I get a bigger hand than Jose.”