After yesterday’s post about black singers in country music, I decided to get away from the computer and chill with some more Ray Charles. I went to the stack o’ vinyl, took out the LP, What’d I Say (pictured right), and hunkered down with the back cover liner notes.
I was only to the third paragraph of said liners when I reached this fantastic quote from Ray:
“Before anybody criticizes any kind of music, they ought to listen to it more. For example, I think a lot of the hillbilly music is wonderful. When I was a kid in Greenville, Florida, I used to play piano in a hillbilly band. I liked it. I think I could do a good job with the right hillbilly song today. If you really have the ability, that’s what counts.”
I won’t deny that my first thought was, “Where was this quote 48 hours ago?!?!” But, it perfectly illustrates the breadth of Ray Charles’ vision, as well as the universal appeal of country music, independent of whatever artificial boundaries we choose to erect. It also got me thinking about “I’m Movin’ On.” As I wrote yesterday, he recorded it in 1959, but it wasn’t released until ’61. Did he actually intend for it to appear on What’d I Say, but it was pulled before the liner notes could be revised? That would explain his references to open-mindedness and hillbilly music. If anyone knows, don’t be afraid to chime in.
In a curious bit of synchronicity, my recent re-immersion into Ray Charles came amidst the reports that Country Music Hall of Famer, and known cattle caller, Eddy Arnold, passed away, a few days shy of his 90th birthday. This, in turn, got me thinking about one of the deleted scenes from the movie, Ray. Given everything I wrote about yesterday — blacks singing country music, the complications of racial identity, and the revolutionary act of Ray Charles diving head first into the music of the honky tonk — this clip pretty much sums it all up in a tidy 1:37. Here’s Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, helping a few Marines sing Eddy Arnold’s 1948 hit, “Anytime.”