The Legendary Artist Brings Music, Humor and Love
Words & Photos by JACKI SACKHEIM
“There’s a common thread that runs through music,” said José Feliciano. “Music has always opened my eyes. I think that’s how I became sighted. I saw what other people saw through their music.”
The legendary musician came to the Grammy Museum in downtown L.A. on February 11, 2020, where he answered questions, played music, and made a lot of jokes.
Moderated by the museum’s Executive Director, Scott Goldman, it was a night to herald the artist’s first new album in many years, Behind This Guitar, on Anthem Records. The album reunites him with long time producer, Rick Jararrd, and comes in the wake of the 50th anniversary of his first Grammy Award.
“There wouldn’t be a career for me without Rick Jarrard,” he said. “He insisted on being my producer. Lucky for me.”
Then, after playing a soulful version of the classic “California Dreamin’,” written by John Phillips & Michelle Phillips for their group The Mamas and The Papas, he said he was surprised to hear it in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the 2019 film by Quentin Tarantino. He’d met Tarantino a few years before at a restaurant in Little Italy, he said, and called him a “very talented guy.”
But he had no idea that his music was included in the film’s soundtrack, and almost missed hearing his song because he was in the bathroom. “I got back just in time,” he said.
He also mentioned another member of The Mamas and the Papas, Cass Elliot. “I developed a real crush on Mama Cass,” he said. “Too bad she didn’t develop a crush on me.”
He delighted in telling corny, somewhat off-color jokes like this one: “Do you know the difference between a snowman and a snow woman is? Snowballs!”
He even joked about a cold he had that evening. “I’ll never take Mucinex again,” he said. “I was writing a song called the ‘Sound of Mucus’. I wanted to see what kind of a run I’d have.”
Before playing the title song of his new album, “Behind This Guitar,” he said, “I’m gonna play behind this guitar. I wish I could play in front of it but I’m gonna play behind it this time.”
José expressed his gratitude to the audience many times throughout the night.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “Thank you America for giving me the opportunity to be somebody, somebody I want to be.”
Then after honoring his own father, and thanking his record company, managers and family, he left us with this:
“Just remember that I love you and that someone cares for you.”
Photographer-writer Jacki Sackheim was born on the southside of Chicago, listening to the music of the streets, hearing the railroad cars roll and collide above the 95th Street viaducts. Later, she listened to the Blues and R&B music coming out of the radio, and started frequenting Blues clubs both to hear the music and to capture the magic of the musicians onstage in photos.
“It was my way to show respect,” she said. “And, it was a way to preserve the sights of the Blues clubs. I have come to know many of these great performers. And they have come to accept me, a non-musician, into their world. I owe them so much.”
“I can’t sing,” she said. “I can’t dance. I don’t play a musical instrument. But I can play this here camera.”