meta-scriptJosé Feliciano On 50 Years Of "Feliz Navidad," New Album 'Behind This Guitar' & Hitting The Big Screen | GRAMMY.com

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José Feliciano On 50 Years Of "Feliz Navidad," New Album 'Behind This Guitar' & Hitting The Big Screen

The GRAMMY-winning musician talks honestly about his career, including his riskiest move and future aspirations

GRAMMYs/Sep 29, 2020 - 10:57 pm

It's been 50 years since José Feliciano came up with the 19 words that make up one of the most popular Christmas tracks, and arguably, the most popular song sung in English and Spanish of this century. 

"I don't know how 'Feliz Navidad' became such a favorite," Feliciano admits in a recent Zoom interview with GRAMMY.com. His guess, beyond its simplicity, is the song's bilingual lyrics and embodiment of Puerto Rico's soul during Christmas time channeled through the cuatro, an instrument that derives from the guitar and is at the center of Puerto Rico's caroling called parrandas. 

"I think, because it has that Puerto Rican feeling [it has]," he says, adding. "No radio station could turn me off on the grounds that it was too Spanish, or let's say, the Latino community, couldn't say, 'It was too much English and we can't play it.' So they're stuck." 

For many, there is no Christmas time without "Feliz Navidad"—it continues to earn a spot on top Christmas lists, invade holiday streaming playlists and land on Billboard charts. 

The GRAMMY-winning Puerto Rican singer/songwriter features the hit on his latest album released earlier this year, Behind This Guitar, his latest work since releasing As You See Me Now with Jools Holland, featuring songs like the title track and "I'm America" that dig into his identity as a guitar player and connection to this country. The album also showcases Feliciano's predeliction for infusing new life into past pop hits—catch him covering Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain," for example.

On top of releasing a new album and celebrating a major anniversary, Feliciano's long musical career and life story are being highlighted in a documentary called Jose Feliciano: Behind This Guitar, which is now premiering at the Nashville Film Festival after the cancelation of SXSW this year. 

After all these years, music is still everything to him, he says. "When I'm in bed, I'm always moving my hands, tapping my fingers, imagining that I'm playing chords. I'm music through and through, and it's a wonderful drug to be addicted to. I'm music through and through, and it's a wonderful drug to be addicted to."

Feliciano spoke to GRAMMY.com on the longevity of "Feliz Navidad," why he’s proud that he made it bilingual, how romance drew him to the guitar, his career and the new film documenting it, as well as his most risky moment as an artist.

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You've got one heck of a year going on. You released an album earlier this year and you're also celebrating the 50th anniversary of "Feliz Navidad." How are you feeling about it?

Well, I'm excited. I don't know how "Feliz Navidad" became such a favorite. But, I would like to say, that I think what made "Feliz Navidad" such a favorite is the simplicity of the song. The song, in total lyric-wise, because it's bilingual, has 19 words.​

19 words.

19 words. And I think, because it has that Puerto Rican feeling, I think it lent itself. Neither I, or the producer who helped me with—we didn't know. We thought it might be a hit because it had all of the ingredients. Making it bilingual, I think really strengthened the song in the sense that nobody—When it comes to Christmas, no radio station could turn me off on the grounds that it was too Spanish, or let's say, the Latino community, couldn't say, "It was too much English and we can't play it." So they're stuck.

The song is on a bunch of Christmas lists. One Billboard list has you top five with Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas Is You." What do you think of her song?

I think it's a great song from Mariah Carey. It doesn't have the longevity that mine does, but that's another story.

Your song is the only Christmas song that is teaching people who don't speak Spanish, to speak Spanish. How do you feel about that?

I feel great about that because I remember, as a kid going to school in New York, when me and friends who only spoke Spanish would congregate and we'd hear "English, English, speak English here! No español!" And, it bothered me because Spanish was the only language that I knew. I came from Puerto Rico in 1950 when the big migration was happening. So [speaking Spanish,] it didn't make me anti-American. If anything, it told me, "Jose, you're in a different country, you must learn the language," which is something that disappoints me about Latinos from everywhere. [Editor's Note: According to Pew, "About six-in-ten U.S. adult Hispanics (62%) speak English or are bilingual, according to an analysis of the Pew Research Center’s 2013"]. They don't want to learn to speak English. And that's terrible. I'm proud to be a Caribbean-American. And, I thank the Lord for where I'm at.

I have a Christmas children's book [now on "Feliz Navidad"], and there's a video as well. And I think it's really cute. It tells a story of, "Feliz Navidad", that I never imagined. I think it's a wonderful little story. And it's in English and Spanish.

You've got a catalog of amazing songs. You're a singer-songwriter, but you also interpret. Is there one that you prefer? 

I like both. I like writing my own material, but I like re-interpreting other songs and doing them better than the original. I mean, that's the goal. If you're going to re-interpret something, if you can't do it better, leave it alone.

Is there a specific topic you like singing and songwriting about the most?

No. Although, I've written some really great protest songs. I wrote a song entitled, "Killing's Not the Answer" when 9/11 happened. And of course, because I'm pro-life, that song now really has a different meaning for me, killing is not the answer.

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There are a lot of protests going on. How do you feel about that?

Well, protests have been going on for decades. This is not the only time. And I think, it's good to protest something, but the looting part of it, I don't agree with. I don't think you have to mess up somebody's business, something that they've spent their whole life to have a livelihood for themselves. I think it's wrong for people when they protest, to loot.

Going back to your music, you have music in both English and Spanish, some bilingual. Did you feel like you had to choose or did you organically just always do both?

I never felt like I had to choose. I enjoyed, for example, rock and roll, since its beginnings. And I always enjoyed writers like Bob Dylan. And so, it just all fit in with me.

Earlier this year you released, Behind This Guitar. Your title track is essentially your story. What drew you to the guitar specifically?

Well, I think what drew me to the guitar was its portability. I mean, it's very hard to serenade a woman with a piano. You can't get the piano inside the window.

In "I'm America" you sing, "I'm proud to be Puerto Rican-American." What inspired that song?

Well, that song was a song that was suggested to me by my producer, Rick Jarrard. We're still working together. And, Rick was in a club in Nashville and he heard a guy sing the song. And he went over to the person and he said, "Listen, I'd like for you not to give the song to anybody right now, because I know an artist who this song fits perfectly." And he was talking about me. And when I listened to the song, I said, "Boy, that's my life story. That's me." I used to sit up hours and practice and practice. And I remember school teachers sometimes telling me, "Mr. Feliciano, if you don't do your homework, you're not going to amount to very much." And I never answered my teachers back, but inside of me I was saying, "Oh yeah, that's what you think." And that's why I practiced 14 hours a day, that's why I pushed myself as far as I could.

In a Huffington Post interview, you say, regarding the song, "I think it's time that people started realizing that they love this country." Tell me more about what you meant by that.

Well, what I meant by that is, you never miss your water till it's gone. And I sometimes think that because we are free and we're allowed to say what we think and whatever, that we take those things for granted. And, I love this country. I love it very much. And, that's what that song was about.

Was that song also influenced by your Puerto Rican background? 

I don't know if it was, truthfully. For me, I love America, and this is what I am, a Caribbean-American, and I'm proud of it. And when we first came to America, from Puerto Rico, we weren't really wanted here because at the time, in 1950, if you look up in your history books, you will see that some dissidents tried to kill President Truman. And, of course, there was a lot of dissension, but you got to go beyond that and you got to go forward and you got to realize that, life isn't always what it seems to be. 

What you think of the new generation of artists from Puerto Rico like Bad Bunny. Have you heard him? 

I've heard, yeah, artists like Bad Bunny. I'd rather not say.

Do you have a message for any Latin artists trying to make it?

Learn your craft. If you're going to be a singer, don't be mediocre. And if you're going to write, write things that really deal with romance, don't deal always with, getting laid, or those kind of things. You could say the very same thing subtly and romantically.

You're an old-school romantic. Tell me what you love about romance and singing about it. 

Well in my early life, I didn't have really very much romance except in my mind, which is the reason that I used to do these Spanish torch songs, like the boleros. And when I recorded the boleros in Argentina, I was the first artist to use a guitar as an orchestra. Most people who sort of play the guitar, use .... They're strummers. They're not guitarists. And since I couldn't move my hips, let's say, like Elvis or whatever. I had to learn to play the instrument. 

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Your story is documented in Jose Feliciano: Behind This Guitar, a documentary. Looking back, what will you remember most about your career?

Everything, because even though there are special moments, I think one of the real special moments for me and for Susan, was when we got the Murph (Helen Murphy) in our corner. Once that happened, everything else has been a piece of cake. Helen's not going to like this. She's going to say, "Well, shouldn't have said those things about me." love this woman. I think she's, ingenious, I think from the time this woman wakes up till the time she goes to bed, she's got ideas. That brain is working and it's an inspiration to me because that's how I am. And even when I'm in bed, I'm always moving my hands, tapping my fingers, imagining that I'm playing chords. I'm music through and through, and it's a wonderful drug to be addicted to.

When you were a little boy, did you ever imagine that all this would happen?

Nah, I was just a little boy. How could I imagine such a thing? When I was a teenager, well, that's a different story. I did imagine me being on TV, recording records. And I was so excited when I was contracted by my friend. And you'll see this in the documentary if you haven't already. I met a guy by the name of, Jack Summer, and, Jack Summer came to Gerde's Folk City, and he was the one that had me signed to RCA. Now, can you imagine a kid of 19 knowing that he was signed to the same label that one of my heroes, Elvis Presley was signed to? I was 11 years old when Elvis had the song, "Heartbreak Hotel."

You're an artist that has really been opening doors for other artists who don't have their sight. I'm sure that a lot of, of young people and people of any age definitely see you as an inspiration. Do you wish the music industry had more talent like you on stages?

I don't know. That's a hard question. I was inspired by, Ray Charles. When I heard, Ray Charles, and found out he was blind, I said, "Well, hey, if there's a place for, Ray Charles, there's got to be a place for Jose Feliciano." I went through a lot of things in a sense because somebody in the record company wanted me to change my name, and Americanize my name, and I wouldn't it because I didn't want to dishonor my father ...  They wanted me to change my name to, Joe Phillips. 

That's so, so different.

Yep.

In the documentary, Carlos Santana, Gloria Estefan, Emilio Estefan, talk about your influence on pop culture. How was it for you hearing all these big names, talking about how you've left such a big impact?

I was very honored by them. For them to mention my name and most terms, I don't think that I opened as many doors for them as they opened for me. I love Emilio Estefan, I love Gloria. They're good people and I'm grateful to have friendships like that. 

You've done so much. What do you want for yourself, going into the future?

I don't know what I want for myself. I just want to be happy. I want my wife to live for a long time. That's the only thing I'm afraid in my life, that I will go before she does. And she'll be alone. I don't like that. 

I have a hit record. It's called, Behind This Guitar. It's my new album. And I thank our record company for that. I thank Helen for that. And Rick Jarrard, my dear friend, who I say is, the George Martin, of our times. We used to experiment and do things. We used to like, for example, putting a backward guitar on a guitar solo because it sounded strange. And it was, "Hey, we're creating something!"

That makes me wonder. What's the riskiest thing you've done with your music?

I would have to say when I did the "Star-Spangled Banner." It was risky, but I didn't know at the time that it was risky, I was just expressing how I felt about the U.S and, I didn't want to sing it straight, without any feeling. I think I put my Latin influence and I put soul into it because for example, on the Detroit Tigers, I think, sure, the non-Black players liked it, but it really got to the Black players. People like Willie Gordon, people like ... Oh my goodness, so many. And I appreciate their support because I did it with them in mind and I wanted the Anthem to be different.

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Marco Rentería and Saul Hernandez of Caifanes perform
Caifanes

Photo: Zeus Lopez

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Revisiting 'El Nervio Del Volcán' At 30: How Caifanes' Final Album Became A Classic In Latin American Rock

Released in June 1994, 'El Nervio Del Volcán' was a high point of the rock en español explosion and a serious evolution in the Mexican band's sound. Decades after its release, GRAMMY.com explores the story behind and impact of Caifanes' legendary LP.

GRAMMYs/Jun 28, 2024 - 04:04 pm

As its title suggests, the final album from iconic Mexican rock band Caifanes heralded an explosive new evolution in hybrid rock. El Nervio Del Volcán ("nerve of the volcano" in English), was the culmination of a years-long quest by the band to alchemize modern rock and Latin American music. 

Released June 29, 1994, El Nervio Del Volcán represents a high point of Mexico’s rock en español explosion. The 11-track album — the band's fourth release — saw Califanes continuing to explore the sounds of Mexico and Latin America, while broadening their sonic palette with jazz and country. 

Since their formation in 1987, Caifanes had been working to refine a sound that was both commercially successful, highly original, and beloved by critics and fans alike. For their efforts, El Nervio became the second Spanish-language rock album to chart on the Billboard Latin 50. Rolling Stone, which rarely gave Spanish-language music column inches, gave the album a glowing review. Caifanes became the first Mexican band to play on MTV’s "Unplugged" in October 1994. The next year, they opened for the Rolling Stones in Mexico City. 

While Caifanes might have been the leading band of Mexico’s rock en español movement, they were part of a cohort that included bands like Café Tacuba, Maldita Vecindad, and Fobia — which were experimenting with new fusions of traditional Latin American and rock sounds. Caifanes was at the vanguard of the Mexico City-centric movement, and El Nervio showcased the band's skill in developing "strong hits, and experimental things, which I think kind of worked," music journalist Ed Morales tells GRAMMY.com. 

In an interview, Mexican rock historian Federico Rubli calls the record  "a very important album, that maybe in its time wasn’t sufficiently appreciated. Even today, 30 years later, it’s difficult to recognize how great a work it was." If the crossover success weren't appreciation enough, El Nervio is notable for the way in which it set a high standard in songwriting and production for other bands that followed. 

Caifanes was daring beyond their sonic experimentation. Like most Mexican rock bands at the time, their music was prohibited from being played on the radio and they  risked arrest for performing. By the time of their first concert at the legendary Rockotitlan festival in Mexico City in 1987, though, there was no stopping what would soon become a new rock movement. The following year, they broke through the government’s music blockade when their first single, "Mátenme Porque Me Muero" ("Kill me because I am dying"), hit the airwaves. 

The follow-up single, "La Negra Tomasa," a post-punk inflected cumbia rocker that became a smash hit across the country, selling a record 500,000 copies. Their self-titled debut album was released shortly thereafter, with the band members looking like extras from a movie about goth subculture on the cover. Their third album, 1992’s El Silencio, found the band more musically confident than ever before. Producer Adrian Below — the former guitarist and frontman of King Crimson who had also played with David Bowie and Talking Heads — helped the band expand their musical palette with "cotton-candy high notes, rumbling ocean rhythms with upsurges that bellows like sea elephants," music critic Chuck Eddy wrote

Everything changed for the rock en español movement in 1993, when the pop-rock outfit Maná, which played a syrupy mix of tropical-influenced music, sold a million copies of its second album, ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Niños? Record labels were suddenly pursuing the next hit-making Latin band and BMG, which had signed most of the major rock en español bands, considered Caifanes its star rockers. 

The band had fractured as they prepared to go back to the studio, with original bassist Sabo Romo and keyboardist Diego Herrera leaving the group. With the increased backing by their label, the trio of lead singer/songwriter and guitarist Saúl Hernández, Argentine-born guitarist Alejandro Marcovich, and drummer Alfonso André traveled to Burbank, California, to record El Nervio Del Volcán GRAMMY-winning producer Greg Ladanyi (known for his work with Toto, Fleetwood Mac, and The Church) was brought into the O’Henry Sound Studios, along with a few special guests. Famed trumpeter Jerry Hey (known for his work on Michael Jackson’s "Thriller") and Graham Nash both appear on El Nervio. 

The songs that Hernández largely wrote and that the other band members would coalesce around were heavily influenced by Mexican folkloric sounds, though Marcovich in particular introduced a variety of Latin American sounds with his guitar. Throughout El Nervio, Caifanes flows effortlessly between genres:  a bit of rustic son huasteco ("La llorona"), jolts of metal ("El Animal"), and Caribbean rhythms  ("Aviéntame").

Rubli tells GRAMMY.com that the album was notably different from the band’s previous releases, largely due to Marcovich being given leeway with the guitar arrangements. "El Nervio Del Volcán is a much more rounded album, more integrated, with a sequence in each song that is, you might say, more logical," he says in Spanish. "And a lot of that is due to the liberty that Alejandro had to arrange them as he wanted."

Soul-stirring anthem "Afuera" was an unusual choice for a lead single — it features an instrumental guitar interlude that lasts for more than a minute —  but proved brilliant. Even Markovich, the guitarist who wrote the interlude, was dubious about its commercial potential. 

"I never could have imagined it would be a single," he said in 2022 on the podcast "Cuéntame Un Disco." "I even told the record company that they might want to do a more radio friendly version without it, but they left it and it worked." 

Today the song is popular among musicians on YouTube precisely because of its interlude. 

Second single "Aqui No Es Asi" was also a hit. Marcovich, again on the podcast, said he was writing melodies on the guitar when he found an unusual rhythm "between Caribbean and Andean." "It was a strange mix," he said. 

Hernández has been called the "poet laureate of Mexican rock," and has often weaved social themes and indigenous mysticism into the lyrics of his songs. In the propulsive "Aqui no es asi," Hernandez obliquely refers to two different places — one materialistic and out of touch with spirituality, and the other a land "where blood is sacrificed for love." The song has been interpreted as a criticism of Eurocentric values that have marginalized more indigenous ones. 

The album slows down considerably with the acoustic, melancholic hymn "Ayer me dijo un ave." Now one of the band’s signature songs, the song is about strength in the face of adversity. Its lyrics are heavy with surrealistic imagery: "Yesterday a bird told me while flying where there is no heat," Hernández sings. "That the long-suffering are not resurrected in dreams." 

Many of the other songs have become classics in Mexico and among Spanish-speakers in the U.S. Highlights include the full-throttle tropical-tinged "Aviéntame"; "Pero Nunca Me Caí," which features Nash on harmonica; and "Quisiera Ser Alcohol," a jazz-influenced lament with trumpet from Hey and a sumptuous fretless bass from guest Stuart Hamm.

More Sounds From Latin America & Beyond

Rafael Catana, an influential folk-rock musician in Mexico City who has hosted a music show on government-funded radio since 1997, says Caifanes' last album "arrived at a crucial moment in Mexican history" when the country was undergoing a massive social and economic transformation. Both sonically and in its production, El Nervio reflected the conflict between Mexico's interest in transnational capitalism and its underclass.  

In the early 1990s, elites had opened the country to a flood of foreign corporate investment with the North American Free Trade Agreement. On Jan. 1, 1994, an armed indigenous uprising against those policies by the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional challenged the government unlike any other group had attempted in decades. (Security forces had warned against political dissidence when they massacred student protesters in Mexico City in 1968 and launched a dirty war to round up "subversives" and marginalize the counterculture, including rock bands).

While El Nervio doesn’t explicitly mention any of these historical points, it is clearly a product of the era, filled with evocations of Indigenous musical traditions despite being produced by a major corporate label. During the tour in support of the album, the band made it clear that they were on the side of Mexico’s most oppressed class, with footage of Indigenous villages and archeological sites shown during their concerts. Hernández would sometimes call on audiences to support Mexico’s native people. 

Backstage, the relationship between Marcovich and Hernández became impossible and contributed to the breakup of the band. The rupture between them would become a subject of headlines in the media. Though the exact details of their conflict remain vague, the band played their final show on Aug. 18, 1995, in San Luis Potosí. A legal dispute over the name Caifanes endured for years. 

By the time Caifanes broke up, rock en español was entering a new phase led by the indie-folkloric experimentation of Café Tacuba. Other musical trends also started emerging: the rap-rock of Molotov, the electro of Plastilina Mosh, the commercial explosion of Juanes' tropical pop, the Caribbean alternative rock of Aterciopelados.  

In the interim, Hernandez formed a new band with André. Their Jaguares channeled a more aggressive sound, and their 2008 album 45, took home a golden gramophone for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album at the 2009 GRAMMYs. In 2011, the original members of Caifanes reunited to play Coachella.

But the truce between Hernández and Marcovich didn’t last, and the guitarist once again left the band. A reunited Caifanes, with original members Hernandez and André, are on tour in 2024 with fellow Mexico City rockers Café Tacuba. 

Mexican music journalist David Cortes, who has written several books on Latin American music, said the band was at their creative peak with El Nervio Del Volcán and had established a striking balance between traditional music and foreign sounds. Ultimately, though, the break-up of the band limited its influence over the years. 

"They wanted to go further," he says in Spanish. "And there are hints of where they might have gone."

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10 Facts About Latin Music At The GRAMMYs: History-Making Wins, New Categories & More

For decades, Latin music has been an indispensable part of the GRAMMYs landscape. Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations, here are some milestones in Latin music at Music’s Biggest Night.

GRAMMYs/Oct 18, 2023 - 03:42 pm

The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are right around the corner — and as always, inspired Latin musical offerings will lie within the heart of the list.

While the Recording Academy’s sister academy, the Latin Recording Academy, naturally honors this world most comprehensively, it plays a crucial role in the GRAMMYs landscape just as in that of the Latin GRAMMYs — and there’s been crossover time and time again!

On Nov. 10, the world will behold nominations in all categories — including several within the Latin, Global, African, Reggae & New Age, Ambient, or Chant field. Within the world of Latin music, the awards are: Best Latin Pop Album, Best Música Urbana Album, Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album, Best Música Mexicana Album (Including Tejano), and Best Tropical Latin Album. The Recording Academy also offers a GRAMMY Award for Best Latin Jazz album, though that award is a part of a different field. 

Like the Recording Academy and GRAMMYs themselves, these categories have evolved over the years. Along the way, various Latin music luminaries have forged milestones in Academy history.

Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations, here are some key facts to know about Latin music’s history at the GRAMMYs.

The First Award For Latin Music At The GRAMMYs Was Given In 1975

The first winner for Best Latin Recording was pianist and composer Eddie Palmieri, for 1974’s The Sun of Latin Music. Now an eight-time GRAMMY winner, Palmieri took home the golden gramophone in this category at both the 1976 GRAMMYs and the following year for Unfinished Masterpiece.

At the 1980 GRAMMYs, the first group winner was the thrice nominated Afro-Cuban jazz band Irakere, for their 1978 self-titled debut.

Percussionist Mongo Santamaria holds the record for the most nominations within the Best Latin Recording category.

The Sound Of Latin Pop — And The Title Of The Award — Has Shifted Over 40 Years  

Back in 1983, this category was called Best Latin Pop Performance. The first winner was José Feliciano, who took home the golden gramophone for his album Me Enamoré at the 26th GRAMMY Awards.

Best Latin Pop Performance eventually pivoted to Best Latin Pop Album and Best Latin Pop or Urban Album, then back to Best Latin Pop Album — just another example of how the Academy continually strives for precision and inclusion in its categories.

As for most wins, it’s a tie between Feliciano and Alejandro Sanz, at four. Feliciano also holds the distinction of having two consecutive wins, at the 1990 and 1991 GRAMMYs.

The Best Latin Urban Album Category Was Introduced In 2007

The first winner in this category was the urban hip-hop outfit Calle 13, for their 2007 album Residente o Visitante.

The first female nominee was Vanessa Bañuelos, a member of the Latin rap trio La Sinfonia, who were nominated for Best Latin Urban Album for their 2008 self-titled album at the 2009 GRAMMYs.

Here’s Who Dominated The Best Norteño Album Category

The first GRAMMY winner in the Best Norteño Album category was Los Tigres Del Norte, for their 2006 album Historias Que Contar, at the 2007 GRAMMYs. To date, they have landed four consecutive wins — at the 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 GRAMMYs.

The Intersection Between Latin, Rock & Alternative Has Shifted

Best Latin Rock Or Alternative Album; Best Latin Rock, Alternative Or Urban Album; Best Latin Rock/Alternative Performance… so on and so forth.

If that’s a mouthful, again, that shows how the Academy continually hones in on a musical sphere for inclusion and accuracy’s sake.

Within this shifting category, the first winner was Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, who won Best Latin Rock/Alternative Performance for 1997’s Fabulosos Calavera at the 1998 GRAMMYs.

At the 2016 GRAMMYs, there was a tie for the golden gramophone for Best Latin Rock, Urban Or Alternative Album, between Natalia Lafourcade and Pitbull. Overall, the most wins underneath this umbrella go to Maná, with a total of three.

These Artists Made History In Tropical Latin Categories

Over the years, this component of Latin music has been honored with GRAMMYs for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Performance, Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album, Best Tropical Latin Performance, and Best Tropical Latin Album.

The first winner of a GRAMMY for Best Tropical Latin Performance was Tito Puente & His Latin Ensemble, for "On Broadway," from the 1983 album of the same name.

Under the same category, the first female winner was Celia Cruz, for "Ritmo En El Corazón." Overall, Rubén Blades has taken home the most GRAMMYs under this umbrella, with a total of six.

This Was The First Latin Artist To Win Album Of The Year

Ten-time GRAMMY winner and 14-time nominee Carlos Santana holds this distinction for 1999’s "Supernatural," at the 2000 GRAMMYs.

This Was The First Spanish-Language Album To Be Nominated For Album Of The Year

That would be Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti, at the 2023 GRAMMYs; Bad Bunny also performed at the ceremony, but Harry Styles ended up taking home that golden gramophone.

Ditto Música Mexicana — Formerly Known As Best Regional Mexican Music Album

Música mexicana — a broad descriptor of regional sounds, including Tejano — is having a moment in recent years, which points to the incredibly rich GRAMMYs legacy of these musical worlds.

The first winner for Best Mexican-American Performance was Los Lobos, for 1983’s "Anselma." For Best Regional Mexican or Tejano Album, that was Pepe Aguilar, for 2010’s "Bicentenario."

The Inaugural Trophy For Best Música Urbana Album Went To…

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Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

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He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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Franc Moody
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 

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A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."

Moniquea

Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.

L'Impératrice

L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

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