Jose “Cheo” Feliciano …. “Who Was He? …. #BoricuaPride …. Forever!!”

~~April 18, 2014~~

San Juan, Puerto Rico (CNN) — Puerto Rican salsa legend Jose Luis “Cheo” Feliciano, a giant of the genre, died in a car crash early Thursday morning in San Juan, police said. He was 78.

A crooner with one of the most recognizable and imitated voices in Latin music, Feliciano sang with the long-running Fania All Stars in the heyday of New York’s thriving salsa scene in the 1970’s.

“Cheo was one of the most important stalwarts and forces of our music,” said Juan Moreno Velazquez, a New York-based journalist who has written biographies of salsa’s biggest stars. “He will be mourned in Puerto Rico and throughout Latin America. He connected to the people, a true stalwart of our culture for all Latinos. The passing of this icon leaves immense pain throughout Latin America.”

Indeed, the governor of Puerto Rico has declared three days of mourning and, throughout the island on Thursday, many motorists drove with their headlights on in tribute. Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said in a statement: “Today, Puerto Rico lost one of its greatest voices.”

The fatal car wreck happened about 4:13 a.m. Thursday, April 17, Puerto Rico police said.

Feliciano lost control of the Jaguar he was driving and crashed into a light pole, police said. He died at the scene.

Police told CNN en Español the singer was the only person in the car. The speed he was traveling at was under investigation, police said. His wife, Coco, told reporters that Feliciano did not like to wear a seat belt. The singer’s son, José Enrique Feliciano, praised his father at the scene of the accident.

Considered salsa royalty, Feliciano was awarded a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

“His music embodied the rhythm of Puerto Ricans living in New York City and his lyrics helped tell our collective story”.

The death of Feliciano, beloved for his hits such as “Anacaona” and “Amada Mia,” was noted on the Twitter and Facebook accounts of some of Latin music’s biggest stars, from Ricky Martin to Ruben Blades, who tweeted “BROTHER CHEO. I’ve just learned of the accident and it is difficult for me to accept.”

José Luis Feliciano Vega, better known as Cheo Feliciano (July 3, 1935 – April 17, 2014) was a Puerto Rican composer and singer of salsa and bolero music.

Cheo Feliciano
Birth name José Luis Feliciano Vega
Born July 3, 1935
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Died April 17, 2014 (aged 78)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Genres SalsaBolero
Occupations Musician and singer
Years active 1957-2014
Labels FaniaRMM
Associated acts Fania All-Stars, Salsa Giants
Notable instruments

~~Early years~~

Feliciano (birth name: José Luis Feliciano Vega) was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where he was raised and educated. His parents were Prudencio Feliciano and Crescencia Vega. As a child, he was nicknamed “Cheo” by his family – a colloquial version of his name José, normally 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, 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.

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. After finishing his primary education, Feliciano attended the Escuela Libre de Música Juan Morel Campos in Ponce, where he studied percussion.

~~Musical career and singing debut~~

In 1952, Feliciano moved with his family to New York City and settled down in Spanish Harlem. Here he auditioned as a percussionist in the “Ciro Rimac’s Review” band – giving him his first professional musical job. Bandleader Tito Rodríguez, heard Feliciano play and offered him a job in his orchestra. He accepted, but after playing for some time with Tito, he left the band to play the conga for Luis Cruz. Despite leaving, he always remained on friendly terms with Tito. Feliciano also played percussion for Kako y su Trabuco orchestra. He was also a roadie for Mon Rivera.


In 1955, Rodríguez found out that Joe Cuba 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 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 Joe Cuba Sextet, singing the song “Perfidia”. He remained with the sextet for 10 years. In 1967, he joined the Eddie Palmieri Orchestra and sang for them for two years. However, at the same time he began using drugs at 21 years old. His increasing addiction led him to heroin, which in turn threatened his life and career. He decided to quit drugs “cold turkey” and eventually joined Puerto Rico’s rehabilitation center, Hogares CREA. Feliciano credits Tite Curet Alonso, the author of most of his hits and his best friend, with pushing him through his rehabilitation.

As a result, he was a vehement anti-drug spokesperson, who volunteered to assist in the rehabilitation of fellow salsa artists who fell prey to drug addiction.



~~Cheo Feliciano~~

“Que te pasa a ti, Las caras lindas, El Incomprendido”


~~Published on May 28, 2013~~

Que buena musica y tan grandes temas recordando al sonero mayor y que mejor que con este gran señor

There are no words to describe this giant from the salsa scene in Puerto Rico.

I grew up with his music and saw his growth as a human being, his trial and tribulations and his successes. Puerto Rico has lost another one of it’s voices.


May he rest in Eternal Peace! 

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19 thoughts on “Jose “Cheo” Feliciano …. “Who Was He? …. #BoricuaPride …. Forever!!”

      • I knew him as Jose Feliciano, not by “Checo.” My mom used to listen to him pretty often. She sang right along with him and other singers.


      • Cheo … is a short name for Jose … so that he wasn’t confused with Jose Feliciano … the guitar player.

        I grew up with him. Didn’t like salsa at the time but it has grown on me!! 😎


      • I have found in my experience that exposure to different genres often broadens perspectives. I grew up with literally every kind of music there is. As a result, I love all kinds: Bluegrass, long-hair music (Vivaldi, Bach, etc.), jazz rap, pop, country, oldies, etc. I’ve also been exposed to many different cultures and music styles from around the world.


      • Make sure you’re not confusing him w/ Jose Feliciano ….. the one who sings in English, plays the guitar and is vision impaired.


      • I am aware of both musicians. Shortly after moving to Jersey I was invited to a Puerto Rican New Year’s party… It blew my mind! Whoa! Talk about a culture shock! I had no experience with Puerto Rican people or their music until that night but I thoroughly enjoyed both. My mother sang along with songs like his even though she spoke only English. I was so little then that I can’t remember the songs but I do remember the names when I hear them. We lived in Florida when I was 3 to 9 and we had a lot of Cubans where we lived so I had quite an upbringing. By the way, I like both, my husband is into guitar and is from Peru. 🙂


      • There you go!! Now this explains it!!

        You were exposed to a PR New Year’s party??? Wow, that is one rowdy bunch!! Yeah, we party till dawn … and some more then ….

        And being in Florida, my gawd!! That’s being in PR and Cuba, if in Miami!! We are taking over!! LOL ….

        Another connection for you is with your husband. Jackie, I may have to make you a honorary Latin Girl!!


      • As a kid I grew up in the sticks of NC, we moved to FL for six years and went back to NC. I married into the military where we lived with many cultures and races. I divorced my husband even though we lived together for a while. When I finally left for good I landed in Jersey. NJ was nothing like I ever experienced! I wrote home about the foods, I had never had broccoli, bagels or Italian food like here. I also wrote home about the different people; on my way to work I could say ‘hello’ to people from cultures I’d only read about until then. 🙂 Gosh, I was young and very impressionable, but I drank it all in and it has made me – and my daughters – who we are today. 😉


      • Jackie … you astound and impress me!!! Definitely an honorary “LATINA” …. bestowed by a real one!!

        LOL … hope you don’t mind!! ❤ ….


      • My husband listens to all kinds of music too and is fluent in English and Spanish.


  1. Living in Texas and specifically in San Antonio Salsa was everywhere. Walking down the street the, ‘Que Linda’, was a common wolf call. Cheo was often heard from blasting from the bars and cafes, especially at the La Mecardo during the spring and summer. If you wanted to learn to dance all you had to do was show up (I did, often). His loss is terribly sad


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