Backstage with ‘The Genius’ Ray Charles

No Lies Radio Music – By Teri Perticone – Feb 10, 2018

ray-charles

As a performer and recording artist in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Ray Charles pioneered a new style of music that became known as “soul,” a blend of gospel music, blues, and jazz that brought him international fame. His soulful and passionate voice, his style of playing the piano and showmanship made him a legendary figure in the world of entertainment.

Ray Charles

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ray Charles Robinson[note 1] (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004), known professionally as Ray Charles, was an American singer-songwriter, musician, and composer. Among friends and fellow musicians he preferred being called “Brother Ray.” He was often referred to as “The Genius.”[2][3] Charles was blind from the age of seven.

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He pioneered the soul music genre during the 1950s by combining blues, rhythm and blues, and gospel styles into the music he recorded for Atlantic Records.[4][5][6] He also contributed to the integration of country music, rhythm and blues and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, most notably with his two Modern Sounds albums.[7][8][9] While he was with ABC, Charles became one of the first black musicians to be granted artistic control by a mainstream record company.[5]

Charles cited Nat King Cole as a primary influence, but his music was also influenced by country, jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues artists of the day, including Louis Jordan and Charles Brown.[10] He became friends with Quincy Jones. Their friendship lasted until the end of Charles’s life. Frank Sinatra called Ray Charles “the only true genius in show business,” although Charles downplayed this notion.[11]

In 2002, Rolling Stone ranked Charles number ten on its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”,[2] and number two on their November 2008 list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time.”[12] Billy Joel observed, “This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley”.[13]

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Career

1952–1959: Atlantic Records

In 1953, “Mess Around” became Charles’s first small hit for Atlantic; the following year he had hits with “It Should’ve Been Me” and “Don’t You Know”.[25] He also recorded the songs “Midnight Hour” and “Sinner’s Prayer”.

Late in 1954, Charles recorded “I’ve Got a Woman”. The lyrics were written by Ray’s bandleader, Renald Richard. Ray claimed the composition. They later openly admitted that the song went back to The Southern Tones’ “It Must Be Jesus” (1954, Duke 205). It became one of his most notable hits, reaching number two on the R&B chart.[25] “I’ve Got a Woman” included a mixture of gospel, jazz and blues elements that would later prove to be seminal in the development of soul music. In 1955, he had hits with “This Little Girl of Mine” and “A Fool for You”. In upcoming years, he scored with “Drown in My Own Tears” and “Hallelujah I Love Her So”. In 1959, “What’d I Say” reached the #6 position on the Billboard Pop chart (and #1 on the Billboard R&B chart).[25]


Ray Charles – I got a woman

During his career, Charles also recorded instrumental jazz albums, such as The Great Ray Charles (1957). During this time, he also worked with the jazz vibraphonist Milt Jackson, releasing Soul Brothers in 1958 and Soul Meeting in 1961. By 1958, Charles was not only headlining black venues such as the Apollo Theater, in New York, but also bigger venues, such as Carnegie Hall and the Newport Jazz Festival (where his first live album was recorded in 1958).[citation needed]


What’d I Say – Ray Charles (rare, original version with intro)

In 1956, Charles recruited a young all-female singing group, the Cookies, and reshaped them as the Raelettes.

1959–1971: Crossover success

Charles reached the pinnacle of his success at Atlantic with the release of “What’d I Say”, a complex song that combined gospel, jazz, blues and Latin music, which Charles would later claim he had composed spontaneously as he was performing in clubs and dances with his small band. Despite some radio stations banning the song because of its sexually suggestive lyrics, the song became Charles’s first crossover top-ten pop record.[26]

RayCharles1975_2929351k

Later in 1959, he released his first country song (a cover of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On”) and also recorded three more albums for the label: a jazz record (released in 1961 as The Genius After Hours); a blues record (released in 1961 as The Genius Sings the Blues); and a traditional pop–big band record (The Genius of Ray Charles). The Genius of Ray Charles was his first top-40 album, peaking at number 17, and was later viewed as a landmark record in his career.


Ray Charles “You Don’t Know Me”

With “Georgia on My Mind”, his first hit single for ABC-Paramount in 1960, Charles received national acclaim and four Grammy Awards, including two for “Georgia on My Mind” (Best Vocal Performance Single Record or Track, Male, and Best Performance by a Pop Single Artist). Written by the composers Stuart Gorrell and Hoagy Carmichael, the song was Charles’s first work with Sid Feller, who produced, arranged and conducted the recording.[26][29] Charles earned another Grammy for the follow-up “Hit the Road Jack”, written by the R&B singer and songwriter Percy Mayfield.[30]


Ray Charles – Hit The Road Jack (remastered)

The 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music and its sequel, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 2, helped to bring country music into the musical mainstream. Charles’s version of the Don Gibson song I Can’t Stop Loving You topped the Pop chart for five weeks, stayed at number 1 on the R&B chart for ten weeks, and gave him his only number-one record in the UK. In 1962, he founded his own record label, Tangerine Records, which ABC-Paramount promoted and distributed.[10]:248 [18]:213–16 He had major pop hits in 1963 with “Busted” (US number 4) and Take These Chains from My Heart (US number 8).[citation needed]


Ray Charles – Busted

In 1965, Charles’s career was halted once more after he was arrested for a third time for possession of heroin. He agreed to go to rehab to avoid jail time and eventually kicked his habit at a clinic in Los Angeles. After spending a year on parole, Charles reappeared in the charts in 1966 with a series of hits composed with the fledgling team of Ashford & Simpson, including the dance number “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and “Let’s Go Get Stoned”, which became his first number-one R&B hit in several years. His cover version of “Crying Time”, originally recorded by the country artist Buck Owens, reached number 6 on the pop chart and helped Charles win a Grammy Award the following March. In 1967, he had a top-twenty hit with another ballad, “Here We Go Again”.[32]


Ray Charles – Let’s Go Get Stoned (1966)

1971–1983: Commercial decline

Charles’s renewed chart success, however, proved to be short lived, and by the 1970s his music was rarely played on radio stations. The rise of psychedelic rock and harder forms of rock and R&B music had reduced Charles’ radio appeal, as did his choosing to record pop standards and covers of contemporary rock and soul hits, since his earnings from owning his masters had taken away the motivation to write new material. Charles nonetheless continued to have an active recording career.


I CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU by Ray Charles

In 1974, Charles left ABC Records and recorded several albums on his own label, Crossover Records. A 1975 recording of Stevie Wonder’s hit “Living for the City” later helped Charles win another Grammy. In 1977, he reunited with Ahmet Ertegün and re-signed to Atlantic Records, for which he recorded the album True to Life, remaining with his old label until 1980. However, the label had now begun to focus on rock acts, and some of their prominent soul artists, such as Aretha Franklin, were starting to be neglected. In November 1977 he appeared as the host of the NBC television show Saturday Night Live.[34] In April 1979, his version of “Georgia on My Mind” was proclaimed the state song of Georgia, and an emotional Charles performed the song on the floor of the state legislature.[17] Although he had notably supported the American Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s, Charles was criticized for performing at the Sun City resort in South Africa in 1981, during an international boycott protesting that country’s apartheid policy.[17]


Ray Charles – Georgia On My Mind (LIVE) HD

1983–2004: Later years

Charles’s 1993 album My World became his first album in some time to reach the Billboard 200, whilst his cover of Leon Russell’s “A Song for You” gave him a hit on the adult contemporary chart and his twelfth and final Grammy. By the beginning of the 1980s, Charles was reaching younger audiences with appearances in films and TV shows. In 1980, he appeared in the film The Blues Brothers. Charles’s version of “Night Time Is the Right Time” was played during The Cosby Show episode “Happy Anniversary”, but he did not appear on the show. In 1985, he appeared among a group of other musicians in the USA for Africa charity recording “We Are the World”. Charles’s popularity increased among younger audiences in 1991 after he appeared in a series of Diet Pepsi television commercials, which featured him singing the catchphrase “You Got the Right One, Baby”. Two more slickly produced adult contemporary albums followed, Strong Love Affair (1996) and Thanks for Bringing Love Around Again (2002); both failed to chart and were soon forgotten.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he made appearances on the television show Super Dave Osbourne in a series of vignettes in which he was somehow driving a car, often as Super Dave’s chauffeur. During the sixth season of Designing Women, Charles sang “Georgia on My Mind” in place of the instrumental cover version which had been used in the previous five seasons. He also appeared in four episodes of the popular TV comedy The Nanny, playing Sammy in seasons 4 and 5 in 1997–1998. In 2001 and 2002, Charles appeared in commercials for the New Jersey Lottery to promote its campaign “For every dream, there’s a jackpot”.[citation needed] During this same period, Charles toured in numerous countries around the world; he was extremely popular in Japan. When he appeared in London and Paris, he usually flew in the Concorde, while his band arrived separately in a 747.

Charles performed at two US Presidential inaugurations: Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration, in 1985, and Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, in 1993.[36] On October 28, 2001, several weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, Charles appeared during game 2 of the World Series, between the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees, and performed “America the Beautiful”. In the same year he collaborated once again with Zucchero Fornaciari who sampled a piece of melody coming from What’d I Say in the album Shake.


Ray Charles – America the Beautiful – 2001 World Series

In 2003, he headlined the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C., attended by President George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.[37] Also in 2003, Charles presented Van Morrison with Morrison’s award upon being inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the two sang Morrison’s song “Crazy Love” (the performance appears on Morrison’s 2007 album The Best of Van Morrison Volume 3). In 2003, Charles performed “Georgia on My Mind” and “America the Beautiful” at a televised annual banquet of electronic media journalists held in Washington, D.C. His final public appearance was on April 30, 2004, at the dedication of his music studio as a historic landmark in Los Angeles.

Death

In 2003, Charles had successful hip replacement surgery and was planning to go back on tour, until he began suffering from other ailments. He died at his home in Beverly Hills, California of complications resulting from acute liver disease,[3] on June 10, 2004, aged 73, surrounded by family and friends.

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Posted by Teri Perticone

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