Ray Charles has always been one of my all-time favorite performers. And one of the all-time musical greats. Full stop.
Since Sept. 23 will the 90th anniversary of his birth, I was thinking about a little Roadhouse tribute to The Genius. But then I found an excellent article in this morning’s Wall Street Journal doing exactly that. It’s too long to insert here in the middle of all of my own fine posts, so I’ve put it on its own page, with a link below.
But first, I just can’t resist a few of my own pithy thoughts — this is my blog, after all.
I don’t really remember when I first heard Ray Charles’ music. It was probably sometime in the mid 1950s, when I was busy discovering that listening to music was a lot more fun if it was recorded by Ray or Elvis or Fats, and not Snooky or Gisele or Patti.
Ray’s music, that hypnotic and mesmerizing union of the scared and the secular, easily established itself as part of the soundtrack of my life.
I saw him a couple of times, the first time, if my fading memory is right, at the Holy Cross field house in Worcester, Mass., where I wrote a review for the Worcester Telegram, in the late ‘60s. I wish I could remember what I said. I’m sure it was awesome. I do remember that he got a standing ovation just for walking to the piano.
The next time was in Pittsburgh, at a now long-defunct nightclub. I did an interview with Ray in advance, a phone interview, but that sort of counts. I was pretty nervous, especially after his agent told he didn’t understand why the paper (The Pittsburgh Press) was letting its blues writer interview Mr. Charles. But it was great.. he was kind and talkative and funny. And I wish I hadn’t lost the tape I made of the conversation.
Ray died on June 10, 2004. President Ronald Reagan had died on June 5, just a few days earlier. On June 11, there was a state funeral for Reagan in Washington, D.C., where I just happened to be spending a few days.
I was sitting in a bar one afternoon, as large black vehicles raced around, shuttling dignitaries for the funeral, I watched a TV tribute to Ray upon his death.
I didn’t have much trouble deciding who I would miss the most