Ray Charles 1930-2004


Brother Ray has left the building. He passed today apparently from liver cancer with family at the bedside.  It's unfortunate, but we've all got to go sometime.  He had 73 years, and he was in decent enough health to be appearing in public on April 30, just a few weeks ago.  

He's departed from this veil of tears.  He had famously bad experience with death and blindness even in early childhood, yet transformed that into musical expression that brought joy, and never seemed to be wallowing in misery.  Anyway, he's past all that now.

His saddest sentiments often seemed to be lined with humor though, such as "Hit the Road Jack."  Or was it that his funniest sentiments were lined with sadness. Listen to his Sings for America recording of Randy Newman's "Sail Away," and that little chuckle as the slaver/narrator promises the natives the "sweet watermelon and the buckwheat cake" if they just climb on board.  A little chuckle from Ray could dissolve or at least steel the will against a whole lot of pain.

He could be particularly pleasingly dark and willful in his humor.  Notably, he recorded "Let's Go Get Stoned" some scant few months after kicking a 20 year heroin addiction.  On SNL during the Carter administration, Ray waxed sentimental about their mutual Georgia roots, claiming to feel a special closeness to the president on the grounds that "his grandad used to own my grandad." 

Fortunately for us, there are countless awesome YouTube videos with Ray swinging hard.  Many of these videos have millions of hits, cause Ray was just that bad.  He'd know how to get YouTube views.

I was privileged to see Ray live on several occasions.  I was within ten feet of him for one moment as he left the stage a decade ago.  

That was as close as I've ever felt to being in the presence of God.  I've said that for a decade, but thinking about it more specifically I'd be meaning that more in the aspect of God being all-knowing.   Perhaps the top thing I'd be looking for in a God- more even than the ability to fix things- would be understanding the things that go on deep down in the heart and soul, those things that even your family or your woman don't get.  Ray, he got it more than just about anyone ever.

Oh, he was also perhaps the singingest SOB in the history of recorded popular music.

Ray Charles  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20

RAY CHARLES HEE HAW PICTURES  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24


Ray Charles on Saturday Night Live, 1977



QUESTIONS     1980




I GOT A WOMAN     1955

BUSTED     1963




REVIEW: Genius & Friends

CD Review: Ray Charles - The Complete Swing Time and Down Beat Recordings 1949 - 1952


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