Ray Charles Robinson, Sr. (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004) was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. Among friends and fellow musicians he preferred being called “Brother Ray”. He was often referred to as “the Genius”. Charles was blinded during childhood, possibly due to glaucoma.
Charles pioneered the soul music genre during the 1950s by combining blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, and gospel styles into the music he recorded for Atlantic. He contributed to the integration of country music, rhythm and blues, and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, notably with his two Modern Sounds albums. While he was with ABC, Charles became one of the first black musicians to be granted artistic control by a mainstream record company.
Charles’s 1960 hit “Georgia On My Mind” was the first of his three career No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. His 1962 album Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music became his first album to top the Billboard 200. Charles had multiple singles reach the Top 40 on various Billboard charts: 44 on the US R&B singles chart, 11 on the Hot 100 singles chart, 2 on the Hot Country singles charts.
Charles cited Nat King Cole as a primary influence, but his music was also influenced by Louis Jordan and Charles Brown. He had a lifelong friendship and occasional partnership with Quincy Jones. Frank Sinatra called Ray Charles “the only true genius in show business,” although Charles downplayed this notion. Billy Joel said, “This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley”.
For his musical contributions, Charles received the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts, and the Polar Music Prize. He won 18 Grammy Awards, including 5 posthumously. Charles was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987, and 10 of his recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone ranked Charles No. 10 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and No. 2 on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
A Message from the People is a studio album by the American R&B musician Ray Charles, released in 1972. MusicHound R&B: The Essential Album Guide called it “a protest album of sorts.”
The album was produced by Quincy Jones. Sid Feller worked on some of the song arrangements.
Robert Christgau thought that Charles “turns Melanie’s ‘What Have They Done to My Song, Ma’ into the outcry of black musicians everywhere—which is probably why it rocks (and swings) like nothing he’s done in years.” Ebony praised Charles’s ability to give “wholly new dynamics to those patriotic vintages ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing’ and ‘America The Beautiful’.” The New York Times deemed the album “not one of his more memorable outings,” writing that “the miracle of Ray Charles’ music is his constant ability to survive his material.”
AllMusic wrote that “a gospel feel mixed with R&B locomotion is the engine that drives things here, but [Charles] also uses it to transform Melanie’s ‘What Have They Done to My Song, Ma’ into a syncopated strut, and bring a Sunday Baptist church feel to the Dion hit ‘Abraham, Martin and John’.” Rolling Stone stated that the interpretation of “America the Beautiful” “added gospel overtones and soulful sway to its source material, pushing Charles’ audience to view the song in a new light.”
The recording of “Hey Mister”, a song about government ignoring the needs of poor people, was played during a 1972 Joint Hearing Before the Special Subcommittee on Human Resources and the Subcommittee on Aging of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, where it was praised by Senator Alan Cranston.
Although not licensed for political use until the 2020 United States presidential campaign—when the Lincoln Project placed it in a video that urged people to vote out Donald Trump—Charles performed his version of “American the Beautiful” at the 1984 Republican National Convention (wikipedia)
A good, but not an essential album !
Ray Charles (vocals, keyboards)
The musicians remained uncredited. But Don Peake remembered playing his 1931 Gibson L5 acoustic on America The Beautiful, and Donnie Eubank played his congas on #6. Other session musicians: Freddie Hubbard, Joe Newman, Ernie Royal – trumpets; Hubert Laws, Jerome Richardson – reeds; Eric Gale, Jim Hall, Toots Thielemans – guitars; Carol Kaye (on #6, #7, #8 and #10), Bob Cranshaw, Chuck Rainey – electric bass; Ray Brown – upright acoustic bass; Grady Tate – drums; uncredited – strings; The Raelettes (almost certainly: Vernita Moss, Susaye Green, Mable John, and Dorothy Berry; maybe also Estella Yarbrough). (http://raycharlesvideomuseum.blogspot.com)
01. Lift Every Voice And Sing (Traditional) 3.08
02. Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong (Ervin/Farr) 4.11
03. Heaven Help Us All (Miller) 4.05
04. There’ll Be No Peace Without All Men As One (Shepard) 3.51
05. Hey Mister (Lapcevic) 3.52
06. What Have They Done To My Song, Ma (Safka) 3.40
07. Abraham, Martin And John (Holler) 4.53
08. Take Me Home, Country Roads (Danoff/Denver/Nivert) 3.31
09. Every Saturday Night (Collins) 3.20
10. America The Beautiful (Traditional) 3.34