Why Ray Charles Matters [AUDIO]
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He was called “The Genius,” we knew him simply better as Ray Charles. I can’t honestly tell you why I’m writing about Ray today, it’s not an anniversary of his birth, passing or any other special day of note. But I’ve been listening to his music all day from waking to a few trips in the Jeep and now back home again. Ray has been my soundtrack for this Sunday.
As a young little punk kid in steel depressed Pittsburgh, PA of the 1970’s I looked around and saw my friends and family barely had two nickles to rub together. Even as a child in the midst of the situation I knew this isn’t “right” and there is something better beyond. Luckily, my parents were big music fans and I found among the Beatles, Mozart, Louie Prima, Stones, Beethoven and Frank Sinatra records a small collection of Ray Charles.
Listening to Ray’s music for the first time let me know, it’s o.k. to be down on your luck (we’re all there every once and a while), things get better and HOT DAMN we’ll even dance at the end. For a young kid, it was like I had found the Lost Music. Of course, it was never lost, I had only just found it.
Ray covered so, so much musical ground in his recording career; Jazz, Blues, Soul, Country, Honky-tonk – It prompted Billy Joel to say, “This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley.” Personally I think it’s sacrilege if you know who Billy Joel is, but not Elvis or Ray Charles.
Ray lost his sight at the age of 7, he always maintained that he did not feel that his blindness was a handicap. Rather he believed that the inability to hear music would have been a handicap. Amen, Brother Ray!
To pull it all together: The American Experience, the up’s, down’s, in-between’s and ho-hum’s are all found and celebrated in the music of Ray Charles. That is why he and his music matters today.
I’m sure right now as you read this The Genius, is teaching the Angels to swing…
Chris Griffin – 1450 KMMS-AM Morning Show Host
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