rejectomorph (flying_blind) wrote,

Genius Hits the Road

If I'd been making bets on which celebrities would die this year, Ray Charles would not have been on the short list. The last time I saw him on television he appeared as youthfully energetic as ever, despite his gray hair. If anyone was indestructible, I'd have thought it was him.

The first Ray Charles records I heard were those produced early in his career by R&B tycoons Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler. His tracks, such as I Got a Woman, Drown in My Own Tears, and What'd I Say were among my favorite creations of the genre. So complete was his mastery of R&B, and so closely did I associate him with the style, that I was surprised when I first heard his recording of Joe Greene's bluesy Don't Let the Sun Catch You Cryin', with its full orchestration and a backup chrous of very white voices. Then I heard his later recording of Don Gibson's country ballad I Can't Stop Loving You, and was even more amazed. Throughout his career, he was able to capture the essence of any genre of music he chose to play, while making it his own. The guy owned music.

In the years when jukeboxes were a common appurtenance of every sort of eating or drinking establishment, one could count on even the most appalling collections of bad music which often filled these devices in out-of-the-way truck stops or greasy spoon diners or hillbilly bars would be augmented by at least one or two Ray Charles records. His music redeemed more than a few hours in such places for me, even as his evocative phrasing and subtle, supple piano style redeemed many commonplace pop songs and raised them into the realm of art. Yes Indeed!

Ray Charles

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