Monday Escape: Happy birthday, Mr. Charles!

Today is the birthday of the great Ray Charles—well, more appropriately, the anniversary of his birth. It seemed to me that instead of sharing a photo, we could groove to some Ray Charles, and I’ve found a few good clips for you—including his first set from Brazil in ’63. It’s out of sight.

Of course, nothing is more appropriate for this blog than his version of “America, The Beautiful”. Ray’s take on what is almost a hymn is rightly loved and admired, and there are a lot of versions of him singing it on the web; this is simply the performance I like best today.

That man had a fantastic take on the song. It just cannot be topped—rather like Whitney Houston’s “Star-Spangled Banner”.

As a Motown girl, I love—LOVE—a big gospel choir. Ray must have, too, because he performed with them on occasion. Here he is with the Voices of Jubilation singing “Oh Happy Day”:

And finally, to add some real jazz and bluesy swank to your Monday—the entire first episode of the Ray Charles show from 1963—it’s end-to-end great music (beginning with “What’d I Say”)—you’ll also hear him singing “Hit the road, Jack”, “You Don’t Know Me”, “Hallelujah I Love Her So”, . Today’s stars only wish they were this good.

Those other horn players are fantastic, too. Ray put this show on the day before his 33rd birthday, having taken his orchestra & the Raylettes to Sao Paulo to perform two sets. His career was at its peak in 1963, and watching the show, you can see why. What a jewel of a recording.

We miss you, Ray.

By the way, the icon is being honoured with a new US stamp featuring his visage—it’s about time!


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