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Remembering Ray Charles
printer friendly versionby Dwight Ozard

The day I wrote this, they buried Ray Charles.

There’s an amazing song called “Spiderweb” on Joan Osborne’s (“What if God Was One of Us?”) debut record, in which she dreams of a world where Charles could see:

He said, 'Since I got my eyesight back, my voice has just deserted me. No 'Georgia On My Mind' no more. I stay in bed with M.T.V.' Then Ray took his glasses off and I could look inside his head. Flashing like a thunderstorm, I saw a shining spider web.

Nearly every eulogy at his funeral mentioned not only Charles’ genius, but also how hard he worked to expand upon and tighten that genius, a discipline that arose from his commitment to using his gifts to serve others. Charles was endlessly curious as a musician, but whether playing gospel, the blues, country, R&B, jazz, or even the touchstones of patriotic hymnody--singing “Georgia On My Mind,” “Hallelujah I Love Her So,” “Let’s Get Stoned,” or “America, the Beautiful”--he was first and foremost a pop artist, committed to using his music to touch the masses--and that is why the man had soul. May he rest in peace.

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