[Marxism] This is who Americans should really mourn

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jun 10 17:53:02 MDT 2004


NY Times, June 10, 2004
Ray Charles, Who Reshaped American Music, Dies at 73
By JON PARELES

Ray Charles, one of America's greatest singers and a musician who 
brought the essence of soul to country, jazz, rock, standards and every 
other style of music he touched, died today. He was 73.

A spokesman for Mr. Charles, Jerry Digney, told Reuters that Mr. Charles 
had died at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif., of complications from 
liver disease.

Mr. Charles reshaped American music for half a century as a singer, 
pianist, songwriter, bandleader and producer. He was a remarkable 
pianist, at home with splashy barrelhouse playing and precisely 
understated swing. But his playing was inevitably overshadowed by his 
voice, a forthright baritone steeped in the blues, strong and impure and 
gloriously unpredictable.

Mr. Charles could belt like a blues shouter and croon like a pop singer, 
and he used the flaws and breaks in his voice to illuminate emotional 
paradoxes. Even in his early years, he sounded like a voice of 
experience, someone who had seen all the hopes and follies of humanity.

Leaping into falsetto, stretching a word and then breaking it off with a 
laugh or a sob, slipping into an intimate whisper and then letting loose 
a whoop, Mr. Charles could sound suave or raw, brash or hesitant, joyful 
or desolate, insouciant or tearful, earthy or devout. He projected the 
primal exuberance of a field holler and the sophistication of a 
be-bopper; he could conjure exaltation, sorrow and determination within 
a single phrase.

In the 1950's, Mr. Charles became an architect of soul music by bringing 
the fervor and dynamics of gospel to secular subjects. But he soon broke 
through any categories. By singing any song he prized — from "Hallelujah 
I Love Her So" to "I Can't Stop Lovin' You" to "Georgia on My Mind" to 
"America the Beautiful" — Mr. Charles claimed all of American music as 
his birthright. He made more than 60 albums, and his influence echoes 
through generations of rock and soul singers.

Ray Charles Robinson was born on Sept. 23, 1930, in the small town of 
Albany, Ga., and grew up in Greenville, Fla. When he was 5 years old, he 
began losing his sight from an unknown ailment that may have been 
glaucoma. He became completely blind at the age of 6. But he began to 
learn piano, at first from a local boogie-woogie pianist, Wylie Pitman; 
he also soaked up gospel music at the Shiloh Baptist Church and rural 
blues from musicians who included Tampa Red.

He was sent to the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind from 
1937 to 1945. There, he learned to repair radios and automobiles, and he 
started formal piano lessons. He learned to write music in Braille and 
played Chopin and Art Tatum; he also learned to play clarinet, alto 
saxophone, trumpet and organ. On the radio, he listened to swing bands, 
country-and-western singers and gospel quartets. "My ears were sponges, 
soaked it all up," he told David Ritz, who collaborated on his 1978 
autobiography, "Brother Ray."

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/10/arts/music/10CND-RAY.html

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