Friday, June 11, 2004

Brother Ray Moves On

I wasn't surprised when Johnny Cash died, he'd been seriously ill for years. But the death of Ray Charles is shocking to me. I know he was 73, but I saw him play seven or eight years ago in Boston and was amazed at his youthfulness, his passion and enthusiasm. I always thought that if any great singer would play till he was in his 90s, it would be him. He was a genius and a showman and an extraordinary perforemer. I don't think there was ever a more perfect soul voice than his, lost, mournful, lusty, and at certain moments wooping upwards into an exultation of God and Woman. I loved his music perhaps more than any but Bob Dylan's. When I was playing guitar in Boston I used to do his song "Blackjack" all the time. For me, his early Atlantic sides are some of the best, most original American music ever produced. There's nothing that happened in soul music for the next twenty years that isn't in those records. The cliche is true in his case: he was an extraordinary man and an extraordinary artist. He was also a lover of Israel, a friend of David Ben-Gurion, a blind man who drove his own car and flew his own plane, an ex-junkie, and a man who claimed to be unable to function without having sex three times a day. Wherever he is now, I'm sure he's enjoying it.

God bless you Ray, and thanks.


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