Friday, September 23, 2005


Happy Birthday, Ray!

John Hinderaker at Powerline has a tribute to Ray Charles in honor of his birthday.

I am only lately an admirer of Ray, having had only a cursory familiarity of his music, and less of his life. That all changed with Jamie Foxx's brilliant portrayal of Ray in this recent biopic.

John speaks movingly of Ray's timeless rendition of America the Beautiful.
It's a beautiful song, and as John observes, Ray leads with the little known third verse to cause us to attend to a song we thought we knew. I like to think it was Ray's way of thanking God for this America that he loved, warts and all. Here's the verse, as transcribed at Powerline:
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self the country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success
Be nobleness
And every gain divine!
This is a powerful tribute to the men and women who have sacrificed all for their country, and Ray pays them the finest of tributes, with the full expression of his great gifts.

I myself have to admit my favorites are tied to the movie, which according to the cover art of the DVD, Joel Siegel describes as "One of the Best Films I Ever Saw." I echo that view, it's a remarkable film and Foxx is extraordinary.

The opening credits, with Ray pounding out the striding chords for "What'd I Say," perfectly captures an intensity and raw emotional power with which Ray delivers his performances. Later, when the film intermingles Ray's troubled relationships with musical numbers. The film deftly captures the passion and emotive power that underlay many of the performances. I am transfixed watching Aunjanue Ellis (Mary Ann) sing "What Kind of Man Are You" or Regina King (Margie) scream out the choruses to "Hit the Road Jack." Call it great filmmaking, call it a skillful pairing of music and drama, it is Ray Charles in all his complexity, and the essence of his art.

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