447

Ray Charles 1930-2004: Part 1 of 4

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

This is an off-the-cuff homage to an American original, not that unlike the recently passed Ronald Reagan (regardless of what our political inclinations may be). There is no other musician, American or not, who can be compared to Ray Charles. Period.

Ray Charles' death is as monumental a loss to American culture as any that we have had in the past ten years. There is no need for this writer to recount Mr. Charles' accomplishments. The body of his contribution is too great and the recounting would take too long. He did not simply influence American music. This graceful and determined man defined American music.

Who are similar artists that preceded Charles? They would have had to transcend genres. That might include Jimmie Rodgers, father of Country Music, Bill Monroe, Big Mon , father of Bluegrass Music, Bob Wills, the father of Western Swing, Charlie Patton, father of the Blues, or Louis Armstrong, father of Improvised Jazz.

But, no—Ray Charles was none of these. Mr. Charles was all of these. He was the unifying element of all American music. And now that he is gone, who is going to accept the mantle of responsibility for both documenting the past and pioneering the future?

Van Morrison is the most likely, as well he should be. Contemporary Willie Nelson is also a healthy contender. Prince is another candidate. The pickings become pretty slim after that. Beck is a possible, if he can divorce himself of the self-indulgent adolescent tripe that he and Jack White have made a cottage industry. No, those who are presently playing, save for Van Morrison, are simply so many patches of greasy foam floating down the defiled stream of popular music. There will never be another Ray Charles for the same reason there will be no more Bachs, Mozarts, or Beethovens. Just because there is a limited amount of that God-given talent.

That is, in my humble opinion.


Shop

More Articles

Read Montreux Jazz Workshops: A Fine, Free Forum Highly Opinionated Montreux Jazz Workshops: A Fine, Free Forum
by Phillip Woolever
Published: July 12, 2016
Read Dusseldorf Rally: Jazz's Best Kept Secret? Highly Opinionated Dusseldorf Rally: Jazz's Best Kept Secret?
by Phillip Woolever
Published: May 16, 2016
Read The New Orleans All-Star Brass Band: Do You Know What It Means? Highly Opinionated The New Orleans All-Star Brass Band: Do You Know What It...
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 2, 2015
Read Sing a Mean Tune, Kid: Chicago for people who hate Chicago Highly Opinionated Sing a Mean Tune, Kid: Chicago for people who hate Chicago
by Mark Lempke
Published: June 7, 2014
Read Roswell Rudd: The Musical Magus Turns 75 Highly Opinionated Roswell Rudd: The Musical Magus Turns 75
by Raul d'Gama Rose
Published: September 5, 2011
Read "Montreux Jazz Workshops: A Fine, Free Forum" Highly Opinionated Montreux Jazz Workshops: A Fine, Free Forum
by Phillip Woolever
Published: July 12, 2016
Read "Quinsin Nachoff's Flux at Constellation" Live Reviews Quinsin Nachoff's Flux at Constellation
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: November 22, 2016
Read "Male Vocals – Mark Murphy, Theo Bleckmann, Gregory Porter, Jimmy Scott, Kurt Elling, Ron Boustead" Bailey's Bundles Male Vocals – Mark Murphy, Theo Bleckmann, Gregory...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 24, 2017
Read "Fathom Events Presents "The Grateful Dead Movie"" DVD/Film Reviews Fathom Events Presents "The Grateful Dead Movie"
by Doug Collette
Published: April 30, 2017
Read "Matthew Shell: Making Art with Substance" In The Biz Matthew Shell: Making Art with Substance
by Kathy Sanborn
Published: April 2, 2017
Read "Tallinn Music Week 2017" Live Reviews Tallinn Music Week 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: April 16, 2017
comments powered by Disqus

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, hide slide-outs, and provide read access to our future articles.

Buy it!