Bob Herbert On Ray Charles


From today’s NYT:

Whether he intended to or not, Ray had opened fire on two very distinct cultures at one and the same time: the white-bread mass culture that was on its guard against sexuality of any kind (and especially the black kind), and the black religious community, which felt that gospel was the Lord’s music, and thus should be off-limits to the wild secular shenanigans that Ray represented.But here’s the thing. Ray Charles’s music has touched so many people so deeply for so many decades precisely because it is religious. Listen to the way he transforms “America the Beautiful” from an anthem to a hymn. Listen to the joyous call-and-response of “What’d I Say?” or the slow majestic lament of “Drown in My Own Tears.”

Ray’s music envelops the willing listener in a glorious ritualistic expression of the sweet and bitter mysteries of life without the coercion, hypocrisy or intolerance that is so frequently a part of organized religion.

It transcends cultures. It transcends genres — gospel, rhythm and blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, country, pop. At its best, it is raw and beautiful and accessible, a gift from an artist who bravely explored regions of the heart and soul that are important to all of us.

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