Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Genius Is the Light of this World: Ray Charles 90

It's another 9/23 -- one of the most born-upon days for iconic musicians, for some reason -- so here I come with the real shit.

We've covered him before but there's never enough, is there?

I was thinking as I was looking at the list of all the September 23rd-ers, that most of them would not exist in quite the way they do, were it not for this gentleman.

Frank Sinatra called him the only true genius. Billy Joel said he exceeds all performers in importance, even Elvis Presley, in terms of influence on modern music.
He preceded James Brown on the scene and the charts, and for my money is the true inventor of Soul music.

I hear him in everything, he's impossible to avoid. That "Before You Go" song that was the big smash of the summer? If Ray Charles had never existed, that song and vocal style would vanish like stuff does in Back to the Future, when Marty and Doc remove events from history.

He woulda been 90 today, if you can get your grizzled, graying head around such a number. I swear when I write these things I start aging in front of the screen like Dorian Gray in reverse.

Don't even get me started on the time in the early 1960s when he made Country records that completely and irrevocably altered what that music could be and became.

His legacy almost stands alone, and he is, without equivocation, one of the most imitated and revered musicians the world shall ever see.

It's near impossible to explain to younger folks who may never have heard of him that he is responsible, in a not-insubstantial way, for the bulk of what they know as possible in music. Before he showed up, it may as well have been another planet.

Let's honor The Genius with this bombtastic German concert from the mid-Seventies, which finds him at the peak of his vocal powers and just laying it on Stuttgart, and in the company of trumpet deity Johnny Coles too!

Ray Charles
Stuttgart, Germany

01 How Long Has This Been Going On?
02 Feel So Bad
03 Am I Blue?
04 I Can't Stop Loving You
05 Take Me Home, Country Roads
06 Don't Let Her Know
07 What'd I Say

Total time: 46:22

Ray Charles - vocals & piano
Johnny Coles, Bob Coassin, Jeff Conrad, Dan McGurn - trumpets
Henry Coker, Glenn Childress, Wally Huff, Bob Knedlik - trombones
James Clay, William Byrne, Andy Ennis, Ed Pratt, Clifford Solomon - saxophones
Tony Matthews - guitar
James Campbell - bass
Scott Von Ravensberg - drums
Ernest Vantreese - piano & organ, musical director
The Raelettes: Dorothy Berry, Bernice Hullaby, Donna Jones, Linda Sims & Estella Yarbrough - vocals

partial Minidisc capture of a 2005 SWR "Jazz Session" FM broadcast
one digital glitch in Track 06 fixed by EN, September 2020

This set is short, but deeply powerful. The stuff he does on Feel So Bad predicts the entirety of modern Soul singing like the Rosetta Stone of it all.

I'll be back on Saturday with another big b'day... this time for someone that is thankfully still with us.

Today is all about Brother Ray, born this day in 1930 and still looming over it all like a granite bust on the ultimate Mount Rushmore of music. What'd I say? --J.

9.23.1930 - 6.10.2004


  1. Replies
    1. I played with Ernest Vantreese at the Playboy Club in Atlanta in the late 60's.Do you know what happened to him.

  2. I played with Ernest Vantreese at the playboy club in Atlanta in the late 60's.Does anyone know what happened to him.