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June 11, 2004

A Word on Ray

My sister sung with Ray Charles. She was one of the Uh Huh girls of the Pepsi commercials. Well, not one of the models who did the commercials, but one of the real singers who did the voice over. She also toured with him various places here and around the world back in those days.

What she told me was that Ray Charles was a musical perfectionist, and when he was on stage giving a performance he was one man, but during rehearsals and recordings he was somebody else. Certainly a stage personna is going to be dfferent from the real man, but it's something I never really thought of when it came to Ray.

Ray Charles had a staggering work ethic, and brooked no BS when it came to the music. If you can imagine that I've been tough on hiphop, try to think what this blind black international superstar composer would be like. I recall hearing that he had absolutely no tolerance for people who couldn't read music. Sometimes he would, depending on the room, decide to perform a song in another key and anyone who couldn't hack the transformation got kicked to the curb. He was a tough old dog.

I've never been a fan of his music, but there was no escaping it. He was a man who got his due, and yet somehow didn't. All people wanted to hear were the same old songs. Georgia, America the Beautiful, Hit the Road Jack. How that must have worn on his nerves. But he delivered. Those songs are Ray Charles, and really nobody else can do them. I do remember when he played America the Beautiful for Ronald Reagan. That song was never the same.

Ray was another man who at some point in his career lived near 'The Dons'. We used to drive by and point out his house. Ray Charles lives there, we'd say. Of course we'd never see him. Ray, we only knew the half.

Posted by mbowen at June 11, 2004 07:27 AM

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