If you had RoadSpoke app this is what you would hear...right... HERE:
(Music up... "Georgia on My Mind" by Ray Charles.)
Exit 38 I-95s To: GA 25, to US 17, N Golden Isles Pkwy, Brunswick near Brunswick, GA
“In 1959, Ray Charles ran out of songs. His band was playing a contracted 4 hour dance and he had gone through all his repertoire with 15 minutes left. So suddenly, he needed to riff. To create. He started singing and improvising and his lady singers, the Raylettes answered his call. "Ooo…. ahhh… Baby what I say!" And so on that day he recorded his first number one hit: "What I say!”
Ray Charles was born in Albany, Georgia in 1930 to an impoverished 16 year old Mom. Blinded by glaucoma at age seven, Ray found his calling exploring sounds at the piano. No doubt thanks to her determination for him to have a better life, his young Mom sent him away to a state run school in Florida for the blind. There he studied classical piano -- but played Rhythm & Blues.
As described in Rolling Stone Magazine, Ray Charles is one of the great ones, a genius, or, as Frank Sinatra put it, “the only genius in the business.”
“Brother Ray” became a major influence for dozens of blues, jazz, R&B, pop, and rock & roll musicians. From faraway England, Rocker Joe Cocker idolized him to the point of imitation. So did Billy Preston, who would show up at Ray’s doorstep to audition. The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin called him “the Right Reverend Ray Charles”.
He got his first gold record with “What’d I Say” in the summer of nineteen fifty nine. Charles then began a streak with “Ruby,” “Hit the Road Jack” and of course “Georgia on My Mind,”. Most surprising, he topped them all with a Country & Western album that gave him a three-million-selling single, “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” It also earned criticism from R&B fans who didn’t want to hear the Genius play country music in the era of civil rights.
The fact that Ray caused a predominantly white audience to buy a black man’s album seemed to speak to Ray on several levels. It may mean that whites could be reached through music despite their prejudices. It also did not make Ray sad he was taking their money hand over fist. But it worked the other way too.
Other blacks, like Gladys Knight, listened. “Ray Charles,” she said, “hipped a lot of black people to country & western bands.” Through Ray Charles, Country Fans listened to R&B and Soul Fans listened to Country.
Perhaps his open-mindedness was because of his roots in Georgia — a state that produced Martin Luther King Junior and may be considered a vanguard for the New South.
Heck, even President Nixon invited Ray to hang out at the White House.
Famed music producer and long-time friend, Quincy Jones, appreciated his pioneer sense of eclecticism said: “Ray Charles was responsible for us opening our ears to all kinds of music”.
Ray's influence in Country music was subtle but immense. Iconic Country Stars revered the black man from Georgia. Two letters Johnny Cash wrote to Ray Charles were discovered posthumously. Wrote Country legend Johnny Cash to soul giant Ray Charles: "I am so proud when I tell people that I have recorded a song with you.”
But Ray Charles never stayed long in a single genre. He did whatever music he wanted. Michael Jackson was even more in awe. Said Michael: “He was a true legend…an American Treasure. His music is timeless; his contributions to the music industry…unequaled; and his influence, unparalleled.”
Ray Charles died in 2004 at 74. He is historically credited with being — along with Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry — one of the first superstars to appeal to audiences of all colors. He excelled in all musical genres.
Before he died Ray was working on a Duets album that included songs with artists Elton John, Nora Jones, James Taylor and his old friend, Willie Nelson.
It was called “Genius Loves Company” and it was released after he died.
Perhaps Ray Charles’ success in bridging the color divide and bringing music and people together was not about country or blues, soul or pop music...Perhaps it was the fact that being blind he did not see the differences between folks. That and perhaps… Ray Charles simply had to have Georgia on his mind.
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