The huge hit that barely made the charts

Happy birthday today to singer Jose Feliciano, born 68 years ago in Lares, Puerto Rico and grew up in New York City. He’s probably best known for his 1970 recording of “Feliz Navidad.” If you didn’t know better, and only went by the Billboard singles chart, you’d say his biggest hit, by far, was his first chart record, “Light My Fire” from 1968. That Navidad song never even made the chart for nearly 30 years, appearing finally in 1998 in the #70 slot.

This is an interesting lesson for radio programmers. You can’t just look at record charts; one also needs to consider a record’s “shelf life.” And “Feliz Navidad” has a long one. Way more than Jose’s only other top-40 hit, “Hi-Heel Sneakers,” which was #25 in 1968. Six of Jose’s tracks, however, did make it to the Easy Listening chart.

Now, while I’m on the subject, and just to overstate my point, let’s look at Frank Sinatra’s chart hits. The list contains a lot of good stuff, a few novelties, but what’s interesting is what’s missing. You won’t find many of the songs that I’d consider part of the core of the Sinatra repertoire, like “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Night and Day,” “I Get a Kick out of You,” “Luck Be a Lady,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “Come Fly with Me,” “My Kind of Town,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Ev’rybody’s Twistin’.” Oh wait, that last one made the chart. But you get the idea. Shelf life. It’s how good it sounds now, not how many copies it sold when it was new.


4 comments to The huge hit that barely made the charts

  • Yes-I have noticed that some of the best songs never make the top 20, but stay around forever, meanwhile, often times the big sellers fade away.

  • Mike Schaefer

    It should be noted, in the case of “Feliz Navidad” that from ’63 to ’73 Billboard had a separate Christmas Chart, and didn’t allow holiday singles to chart in the regular Hot 100, which “Feliz” surely would have, had it been allowed to.

    (Yes, I am a chart geek)