Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R is for Ray


He's Ray, man! Ray Charles! What can I add to his bio that most people wouldn't know already? The man is a soulful, piano playing, R & B legend - one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time. To top it off, he accomplished this in spite of blindness and poverty.

Born in Georgia in 1930, Ray's parents (Aretha Williams and Bailey Robinson) moved to Florida while he was still a child. A younger brother, George, drowned in his mother's washtub. Ray remembered the incident as one of the most traumatic things he ever endured. Soon after, he began to lose his sight and by the age of 7, Ray was blind. His mother sent him to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. It was there that he learned to play piano, organ, trumpet, clarinet and sax. For the first time in his life, he was exposed to a wide range of musical styles. 

By the age of 15, tragedy struck again. Ray's mother was dead and he was totally on his own.

Soon afterwards, he joined a group that toured the South. Along the way, he picked up a nasty heroin habit. At the age of 16, he found himself in Seattle and befriended a young Quincy Jones! Their friendship would last a lifetime and Ray often said that Quincy taught him about the music industry. He continued to play clubs and gigs whenever and wherever he could get them. 

In 1949, he recorded "Confession Blues" and he was off! There are too many hits to count. My all time favorite is "Georgia On My Mind," but the guy could sing anything and make it soulful. His version of "America, the Beautiful" is fantastic; it's pure Ray.

Ray said that some of his influences included Nat King Cole, Art Tatum, Louis Jordan, and Charles Brown. The list of musicians influenced BY Ray is much, much longer. My favorite comment came from Billy Joel, who once said that he felt Ray Charles was "much more important that Elvis Presley." 

When he died in 2004, some of the biggest names in music were in attendance. His final record, Genius Loves Company, was released after his death and included duets with B.B. King, Michael McDonald, Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Mathis, James Taylor, Gladys Knight, Willie Nelson, Norah Jones,  Elton John, Diana Krall, and Nat King Cole's own daughter, Natalie.  

Aw, Ray. I can't stop loving you...








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46 comments:

  1. Ray Charles was a huge talent! I remember a great scene from his award-winning movie, when he (Jamie Foxx) revealed his secret for telling if a woman was his type. He would touch her forearm and wrist to make sure she wasn't overweight. Great choice for "R," Cherdo!

    Julie

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    1. That was a great movie; Jamie Foxx did a wonderful performance - and tribute!

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  2. A wonderful, soulful performer despite the hardships he endured. Have enjoyed him a lot over the years. Did not know he struggled with drugs, but I guess that should not come as a surprise. So many performers do.

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    1. Yes, I'd like to know what it is that makes so many turn to drugs when they are so creative and talented. I suspect it's a a combination of being on the road, a non-existent home base, stress and pure availability.

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  3. Wow, was there anyone he didn't sing with at some point?
    He was proof that if you really want something, nothing can hold you back.

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    1. The more I read about him, the more I ask, "What COULDN'T this guy do?"

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  4. Good morning, dear Cherdo!

    What a coincidence!
    Mrs. Shady turned to me a little while ago and uttered those famous words,
    "Hit the road, Jack."

    Brother Ray is an excellent choice for your R music act. I would have been just as happy if you had featured Richard Wayne Penniman aka Little Richard, another architect of the broad genre we like to call rock 'n' roll.

    As I'm sure you noticed in your research, Ray Charles lived here in the Tampa Bay area early on. At one time I owned most of Ray's early jazz and blues recordings waxed in the late 40s and early 50s. My favorite Ray Charles recordings are "I Got a Woman" and "Greenbacks," both made in the mid 50s, and both featured on my blog in my Cruisin' series a while back. Ray's late 50s work allowed him to attract a white audience. In the early 60s when Ray made the switch to blues and country influenced ballads, he achieved even greater crossover success. Who could forget the impact of the all star USA For Africa charity fundraiser and the compelling "We Are the World" song and video? I used the inspiring song in a 60 minute program that I produced for my NLP seminar program. On my blog I have featured several members of Ray's female backing group, The Raelettes, and have similar related posts in the pipeline.

    Thank you very much, dear friend Cherdo. Have a nice day and I'll see you here tomorrow when you pay a long overdue tribute to SSS (Shecky Shady Shaft).

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    1. The thing that stays with me in the case of Ray and many of the other "greats" is the amount of adversity they experienced - and overcame it...heck, they did more than overcome. They thrived, created, and excelled. (I still want to know why this talented fellow - and many others who "have it all" - cheated on their wives. The serial adultery just baffles me. If you're done with her, divorce her, be upfront about it. It's not like they can't afford it.)

      Starting my three day (weekly) busy streak. Two more weeks and then it will wind down for a while. I can't wait.

      There WILL be an "S" tribute tomorrow...take care and have a great day!

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  5. sounds like he had an excellent opportunity at the school he went to, and great to have the links here too

    zannierose A-Z visitor

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    1. I'm thinking the school was excellent - but I'll bet we can't name another classmate. :-)

      Opportunity is only part of it.

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  6. Ray Charles is an excellent pick for R. He is such a legend and he sang with so many great people.

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    1. I was amazed at how many other musicians he collaborated with over the years.

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  7. Was there any doubt that Ray Charles would be your choice for 'R.' Well done!

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    1. I know, right?

      I feel the same way about "S"...

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  8. I never knew he had played other instruments....great choice!

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    1. Me, either - I just knew about piano and organ. Thanks, Michael!

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  9. CHERDO ~
    Well, there's no arguing against your "R" choice. I certainly would NOT say that Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley (sounds like something that adulterer Billy Joel WOULD say) but there's no denying the quality of the performer you chose for letter "R".

    Looks like I'm gonna go thirsty today.

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. Everyone needs a day to dry out and push back from the lactose - even you.

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    2. I've watched all these "milkshake" comments go by and not said anything. But I can't stand it any longer. I know you don't know this song, StMc, and I don't expect you to make it any further than the first 30 seconds (and that is enough... believe me). But each time you say you're gonna drink that milkshake, this very annoying chorus goes through my head...

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFDqW0Nfo2k

      Which lead me to today (and this), which you can't appreciate without having listened to at least a tiny bit of the above link...

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_LWjmI10UE

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    3. Ha!-Ha!-Ha! [;-)}
      Thanks for the laugh, GIRL WONDER. I'm STILL laughing!

      ~ D-FensDogG

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    4. Oh my gosh, that is PERFECT, Robin!!! Bwahahaha!

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  10. He sure went for it. Nothing held him back. The perfect choice for R indeed

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  11. What an amazing man. Surviving one of those tragedies is enough to make him amazing. He is a much better example of a man over my no condom, no crib getting whiner.

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    1. I liked your post, though, Elizabeth! I share your sentiments.

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  12. Ray is the best!! Hands down I love his Christmas song " spirit of Christmas" better than all.
    I used to the own the DVD of the movie Ray that stared Jamie Foxx. He did an incredible job portraying him.
    Stopping by from the a to z challenge. I love your theme- I love music!! I posted songs today as well.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Holli! I'm going to visit you soon - like NOW.

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  13. Ray was a much better movie than Walk the Line, even though they both basically used the same script...

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    1. I enjoyed that movie more than most bios on film. Jamie Foxx nailed it.

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  14. It's hit deep. She's going way way way back. She's got it! The crowd roars, RRRRRRRRRRRay.

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  15. He is a legend and his voice touches something inside one. I couldn't even pick a favorite because I love so many of them.

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    1. I keep saying the limiting the size of the post is the biggest challenge for me.

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  16. I love Ray Charles and so does my hubby. he could do most anything and I love his version of your favouirte song

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  17. I Can't Stop Loving You was #1 on the day of my birth. I still thought this was going to be Ray Stevens, though.

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    1. I've only got one comedian in the list - but he is a goodie and a favorite.

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    2. Hey, hey, more than just a comedian- remember Misty and Everything Is Beautiful?

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  18. What a great and innovative musician. He had a sound all his own.

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  19. I think Ray is one of those artists that have recorded *something* that everyone likes... and for some folks.. lots of something. Nice choice for "R."

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    1. I love how he never copied - he was always Ray.

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  20. There's something wrong with you if you don't like Ray Charles.

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Thanks for your personal yada, yada, yada,
Love, Cherdo