June 10, 2004
RIP, Ray Charles
The legendary Ray Charles has passed away at the age of 73.
Ray Charles, the Grammy-winning crooner who blended gospel and blues in such crowd-pleasers as "What'd I Say" and ballads like "Georgia on My Mind," died Thursday, a spokesman said. He was 73.
Charles died at his Beverly Hills home surrounded by family and friends, said spokesman Jerry Digney.
Charles last public appearance was alongside Clint Eastwood on April 30, when the city of Los Angeles designated the singer's studios, built 40 years ago in central Los Angeles, as a historic landmark.
Blind by age 7 and an orphan at 15, Charles spent his life shattering any notion of musical boundaries and defying easy definition. A gifted pianist and saxophonist, he dabbled in country, jazz, big band and blues, and put his stamp on it all with a deep, warm voice roughened by heartbreak from a hardscrabble childhood in the segregated South.
"His sound was stunning - it was the blues, it was R&B, it was gospel, it was swing - it was all the stuff I was listening to before that but rolled into one amazing, soulful thing," singer Van Morrison told Rolling Stone magazine in April.
Charles won nine of his 12 Grammy Awards between 1960 and 1966, including the best R&B recording three consecutive years ("Hit the Road Jack," "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Busted").
His versions of other songs are also well known, including "Makin' Whoopee" and a stirring "America the Beautiful." Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell wrote "Georgia on My Mind" in 1931 but it didn't become Georgia's official state song until 1979, long after Charles turned it into an American standard.
"I was born with music inside me. That's the only explanation I know of," Charles said in his 1978 autobiography, "Brother Ray." "Music was one of my parts ... Like my blood. It was a force already with me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me, like food or water."
As far as I'm concerned, if we replaced the "Star Spangled Banner" and any lingering seventh-inning-stretch versions of "God Bless America" at all sporting events with Ray Charles' version of "America the Beautiful", the world would be a better place. Rest in peace, Ray Charles.
(Via Lean Left.)
UPDATE: Two things I could have mentioned earlier about Ray Charles but forgot:
1. Flip Wilson as Queen Isabella talking about how Christopher Columbus is gonna discover Ray Charles. Avedon remembers.
2. Dave Barry once wrote that "Hit The Road, Jack" is a quick and easy way to test if you have any rhythm. If you can figure out where to clap in HTRJ, you have basic rhythm.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 10, 2004 to Music
I had the pleasure of seeing Ray play at the Austin Blues Festival a few years ago. He was the closing act, and I remember seeing a number of the other headliners in the audience for his set - having come out into the crowd to watch him sing.
He'll be missed.
Ray Charles was a unique talent that transcended music. Whether it was gospel, rhythm and blues, blues, rockabilly, or soul, Ray Charles could take a song and make it his (as stated with "Georgia On My Mind"). Personally, I'd rather hear "What'd I Say", "I Got a Woman", "Hit The Road Jack" and "Night Time Is the Right Time" than 99% of what's on the radio today.
I find it ironic that his rendition of "Busted" won a Grammy when it was best done by another unique talent, Johnny Cash. On the other hand, Johnny's version of "What'd I Say" is one worst pieces of recorded music I've ever heard (and that's as a Johnny Cash fan way before he became cool).
By the way, his version of "It's Not That Easy Being Green" is far better than the original by Kermit the Frog. Between that and Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Mary Had a Little Lamb", you could teach Olivia to truly appreciate music.
I was, and am, severely bummed about Ray's passing. The irony was that I choose the R&B playlist this morning for my day with the 7 month old, and the 5 disc "The Genius of Soul" set was in that rotation.
She'll grow up in a diminished world, without Ray Charles around.
"America, the Beautiful," indeed, is one of his great ones. I love his rendition, too, of "Old Man River."
We saw him a couple years ago at a wonderful little venue in Northern California. It was just amazing. I do not, in general like jazz or R&B, but I just don't see how it's possible to not like at least a couple Ray Charles songs.
Ray Charles on Saturday Night Live (in the usual studio) talking about how he refused to appear until they gave in and agreed to film at Carnegie Hall.
The 4th just wont be the same this year. Rest in peace Ray! There must be a hell of a band in heaven.
I'm looking to download the "Muppets" version of "It's not easy being green" with Ray Charles. Does anybody have an idea where I can find this? I've searched Kazaa, and Napster but no results... Please let me know if you know where I can find this.
I JUST COPED A COPY OF RAY CHARLES ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE RECORDED IN 1977
GOD'S COPY GOT STUCK IN THE VCR.
WHAT A SHOW.. BOY DID I LOOK YOUNG,,,,, FUNNY AND GREAT MUSIC
ALL I CAN SAY IS KEEP LOOKING ON E-BAY (THATS WHERE I GOT MINE) WELL WORTH IT
HEY LOOKS WHOS HERE JOHN FRED,,,MAN I LOVE YOUR SONG Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)
HEY WAIT.......... GOT TO GO, SEE YA
LOVE JAKE BLUES
Ray Charles is really good.I love his songs Geogia's on my mind and What i'd say
I heard Ray Charles singing "It's Not Easy Being Green" on an old rerun of The Cosby Show. Can you tell me if there is any way I can get his recording of it? It took my breath away.
I think I say that same Cosby show rerun. I couldn't find his "It's Not Easy Being Green" on iTunes either. I was also left breathless.
I was also looking for Ray Charles "it's not easy being green" I heard it on the muppets lately it is stuck on my mind and i would realy love to hear it again, any one know where i could down load it. either the muppets version or the Cosby show
The song "Being Green" can be found on the 1975 album, Renaissance.