Ray Charles: Country & Western - JazzWax

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July 06, 2009


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Ed Leimbacher

Interesting perspective. Certainly many Black entertainers and Jazzmen were making their individual Civil Rights statements during those years, from Satch condemning the government's silence and uninvolvement, to Duke's second try at a stage musical, to classic tracks and albums by Max Roach, Coltrane, and so many others. Charles' two albums seem pretty subtle in that broad Civil Rights context.

But I saw Ray live in an odd Chicago warehouse venue in '61 or '62, and while I remember Margie and the great Atlantic hits, I swear Charles played no more than one or two tracks from the ABC releases--"I Can't Stop Loving You" for sure and maybe "Born to Lose." But no speeches or pointed intros. He was just Ray Charles, soulful in all dimensions, and it was up to the audience to draw its own conclusions. The fight for freedom down South (and up North) didn't seem to figure in.

Ed Leimbacher

Hmmm. Some careless inconsistencies in my previous comment... if I saw Ray in '61, then Modern Sounds hadn't been recorded yet, and if in '62 it may have been too soon for the hits to have taken hold. Well, either way, the Genius was making Ray Charles statements, not Civil Rights remarks; that much I do recall. But I guess you might say that his whole life was a Civil Rights statement.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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