I Know That Song! Just 19 Words Over & Over For 3 Minutes


Today’s song is a simple one: Just 19 words in English and Spanish, repeated over a 3-minute run time and written in 1970 by a Puerto Rican singer/songwriter. His producer had urged to write an original Christmas song for his 1970 holiday album, and he says he came up with this song within minutes.

He recorded the song while feeling homesick at Christmas, missing his family in New York and also as he sat in a studio in Los Angeles. 

He remembered celebrating Christmas Eve with his brothers, eating traditional Puerto Rican foods, drinking rum, and going caroling. "It was expressing the joy that I felt on Christmas and the fact that I felt very lonely. I missed my family, I missed Christmas carols with them. I missed the whole Christmas scene", he says

He sang the song and also played guitar and cuatro, which is a traditional, 10-stringed Puerto Rican instrument that his uncle had taught him how to play.

It’s appeared in movies and TV shows. It’s been covered by musical artists as diverse as Celine Dion, Kacey Musgraves and BTS, and it’s been heard on the radio by an estimated 3.8 billion people, according to Billboard, where today’s song remains one of the top 10 best-performing songs on its Holiday 100 chart.

Today’s singer has said he’s proud of today’s song but he’s also frustrated by its legacy. Many people know that song and little else.

"At times, it can be an albatross," he said. "Unfortunately, the radio stations in this country don't play me the rest of the year."

He says he prefers to be famous for other reasons: He's won three Grammy Awards, and Guitar Player magazine lists him in its "Gallery of Greats." for example. Or for being the first successful rock musician to play a nylon string guitar.

Still, 50 years after recording the song, he says he’s come to terms with the song and its fame.

“I just want the song to be remembered,” he said “And if they mention my name along with what they remember, then even better.”

Jose Feliciano...Feliz Navidad...On K103’s I Know That Song


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