Ray Charles had so many successful and popular recordings throughout his long and distinguished singing career which spanned the better part of 60 years from 1947 to 2004…..with dozens and dozens of hits along the way…..after having recorded literally 100’s and 100’s of songs that charted from 1956 to 1996….as Brother Ray possessed one of the most recognizable voices in American music.
In the words of musicologist Henry Pleasants:
Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby before him….had been masters of words…..whereas Ray Charles is a master of sounds. His records disclose an extraordinary assortment of slurs, glides, turns, shrieks, wails, breaks, shouts, screams and hollers…all of which are wonderfully controlled, disciplined by inspired musicianship….and harnessed to ingenious subtleties of harmony, dynamics and rhythm….for it is either the singing of a man whose vocabulary is inadequate to express what is in his heart and mind…..or of one whose feelings are too intense for satisfactory verbal or conventionally melodic articulation. He can’t tell it to you. He can’t even sing it to you. He has to cry out to you, or shout to you, in tones eloquent of despair—or exaltation. The voice alone, with little assistance from the text or the notated music, conveys the message.”
Pleasants continues, “Ray Charles is usually described as a baritone…..and his speaking voice would suggest as much….as would the difficulty he experiences in reaching and sustaining the baritone’s high E and F in a popular ballad. But the voice undergoes some sort of transfiguration under stress, and in music of gospel or blues character he can and does sing for measures on end in the high tenor range of A, B flat, B, C and even C sharp and D, sometimes in full voice, sometimes in an ecstatic head voice, sometimes in falsetto. In falsetto he continues up to E and F above high C. On one extraordinary record, ‘I’m Going Down to the River’…he hits an incredible B flat…giving him an overall range, including the falsetto extension, of at least three octaves.”
In this video rendition of Just Because You Are Near seen herewith….Ray Charles provides evidence of everything that Henry Pleasants says about Brother Ray above and more.