THE GENIUS IS GONE

Ray Charles: You Don’t Know Me
From The Complete Country & Western Recordings 1959-1986

Ray Charles and Betty Carter: Everytime We Say Goodbye
From Ray Charles and Betty Carter/Dedicated to You

I was listening to Fresh Air today and they had a special show dedicated to Ray Charles. One of the observations that Terry Gross made immediately resonated with me: Charles didn’t simply cross genres – blues, soul, country, rock, jazz, etc. – but transcended them. We don’t think so much of Charles’ country songs or his soul songs – we think of his songs as Ray Charles songs. Case in point: “You Don’t Know Me.” Technically, it’s a country song, a cover of Eddy Arnold’s hit, but all the times I’ve listened to it, I have never once thought of the song as a country song or any genre. It was just, you know, a Ray Charles song. That, more than anything, says everything about his importance and singular impact on popular music. Such an incredible talent and now that he’s gone, rather than mourn his passing, I want to celebrate what he left behind. In his words: “I never wanted to be famous; I only wanted to be great.”

Done and done.

(Also, this song will be played a zillion times but it’s still a classic. Ray Charles’ rendition of Georgia On My Mind (Live).)

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