Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Ray, the movie great....Ray the DVD....even BETTER!

The theatrical version of "Ray" was a masterpiece about the life of the late, great Ray Charles. Jamie Foxx gives an Oscar worthy performance as the legendary entertainer in this fifteen years in the making production. The DVD is even better than the version seen in theatres because it contains several scenes that were deleted from the movie. One of these scenes was about the time when Ray was set to tour with another legendary performer Ruth Brown. Ruth at the time was pregnant and had to cancel the tour. Instead of giving up, Ray kept his musicians together and toured with Ray Charles as the main attraction. At the time this was a very risky venture because Ray's popularity was growing but not big enough to sustain a national tour. Another great scene that was deleted from the original theatre production was when Ray fired one of his musicians for playing the wrong notes during a major performance: the drug- influenced musician called Ray a hypocrit because Ray also was a junkie at that time. Ray explained that when he did what he did he didn't do it in front of an audience because the people in the audience paid a lot of money to see his show and he felt obligated to give them the best show he could provide. This scene, though short gives the viewer great insight into the character of Ray Charles, who even in his later years gave as many as 230 performances per year. Ray, a blind man, seldom missed a date or was late for a date and he expected those in his employ to uphold the same high standards.
In the course of his lifetime Ray became a very wealthy man but his kindness touched so many people. Had it not been for Ray Charles, we may have never known Smokey Robinson (no relation) & The Miracles because very early in their career Apollo owner Bob Schiffman was very disappointed with their initial performance.
They were in a position where they needed their music altered fast. It was Ray Charles who re-wrote their charts. The rest is as they say "history" Smokey Robinson & The Miracles went on to become one of the most popular groups in the country and sold millions of records world-wide. It was Ray Charles who gave singing-songwriting sensations Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson their first big break when he performed the Ashford & Simpson R&B classic "Let's Go Get Stoned". Ray Charles also donated 20 million dollars to African-American charities and to organizations of the blind.
His musical legacy speaks for itself: 20 grammies, 34 top 40 hits, 3 number one songs. His multi-genre productions encompassed R&B, Gospel, Country and Jazz. His last studio cd "Genius Loves Company" became the best selling Ray Charles album of all time, even surpassing the award winning classic "Modern Sounds in Country Western Music" of the early sixties.
Eventhough Ray Charles did receive flack for playing in South Africa during the apartheid era. We must always keep in mind that Ray Charles was THE FIRST major African-American recording artist to refuse to play in front of a segregated audience. This was an incredibly courageous act because the performer who did this faced economic ruin in an era where blacks were still forced to ride in the back of the bus in the southern states. Ray Charles was not a saint. He was a human being who made a few mistakes; womanizing and drug addiction, but the movie and the DVD deal with these issues honestly, telling it the way it was. Ray was able to overcome these obstacles. He fought heroine addition in the most challenging way.......cold turkey. Ray Charles was loved by millions and he will continue to be loved for generations to come. Not just for his wonderful music alone, but because of his charity, his honesty and most of all his undying confidence that he
had in himself that touched those around him. There will NEVER be another Ray Charles Robinson Sr, but the
world is a better place because he was here.

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