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Music – Ray Charles – Gonna Be A Bright Sun Shiny Day & She’s Long Gone Now


In June 1952, Atlantic Records bought Charles’s contract for $2,500 from Swing Time Records….and in his first recording session for Atlantic….he recorded “The Midnight Hour” and “Roll With My Baby” in September 1952, albeit,  his last Swingtime release “Misery in My Heart” and “The Snow Is Falling” would not appear until February 1953.  He began recording jump blues and boogie-woogie as well as slower blues ballads….in which he continued to show the vocal influences of Nat “King” Cole and Charles Brown.  In 1953, “Mess Around” became Charles’s first hit for Atlanic….after which the following year he had hits with “It Should Have Been Me” and “Don’t You Know”….which became his first chart success for Atlantic.

Late in 1954, Charles recorded his own composition “I Got a Woman”…which became one of his most notable hits, reaching number two on the R&B chart.…as “I Got a Woman” included a mixture of gospel, jazz and blues elements that would later prove to be seminal in the development of rock and roll and soul music. In 1955, he had hits with “This Little Girl of Mine” and “A Fool for You”. In upcoming years, he scored with “I’ll Drown in My Own Tears” and “Hallelujah, I Love Her So”. By 1959, Charles reached the Billboard Top Ten with “What’d I Say”….which made him a major figure in R&B.

Parallel to his R&B career….Ray Charles also recorded instrumental jazz albums such as The Great Ray Charles (1957).  During this time, he also worked with the jazz vibraphonist Milt Jackson by releasing Soul Brothers in 1958 and Soul Meeting in 1961. By 1958, Charles was not only headlining black venues such as The Apollo Theater and The Uptown Theater….but also bigger venues such as The Newport Jazz Festival….where he cut his first live album. In 1956, Charles recruited a young all-female singing group named the Cookies and reshaped them as the Raelettes….who are featured on this video herewith. Until then, Charles had used his wife and other musicians to back him on recordings such as “This Little Girl of Mine” and “Drown in My Own Tears”….as the Raelettes’ first recording session with Charles was on the bluesy gospel-inflected “Leave My Woman Alone”.

Charles reached the pinnacle of his success at Atlantic with the release of “What’d I Say”….a complex song that combined gospel, jazz, blues and Latin music….which Brother Ray would later claim he had composed spontaneously as he was performing in clubs and dances with his small band. Despite some radio stations banning the song because of its sexually suggestive lyrics….the song became Charles’ first ever crossover top ten pop record. Later in 1959, he released his first country song….which was a cover of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On”…..as well as recording three more albums for the label….including a jazz record later released in 1961 as “The Genius After Hours”….a blues record released in 1961 as “The Genius Sings the Blues”….and a traditional pop/big band record “The Genius of Ray Charles”….which provided his first top 40 album entry when it peaked at No. 17….and was later held as a landmark record in Charles’ career.

Charles’ Atlantic contract expired in the fall of 1959 with several big labels offering him record deals…after he chose not to renegotiate his contract with Atlantic….for that is when Ray Charles signed with ABC-Paramount Records in November 1959….where he obtained a much more liberal contract than other artists had at the time….with ABC offering him a $50,000 annual advance with higher royalties than before….and eventually having ownership of his masters…for this was a very valuable and lucrative deal at the time.  During his Atlantic years, Charles had been heralded for his own inventive compositions….but by the time of the release of the instrumental jazz LP Genius + Soul = Jazz in 1960 for ABC’s subsidiary label Impulse!….he had virtually given up on writing original material, instead following his eclectic impulses as an interpreter.

With “Georgia on My Mind” being his first hit single for ABC-Paramount in 1960….Brother Ray received national acclaim and four Grammy Awards….including two for “Georgia on My Mind”….Best Vocal Performance Single Record or Track, Male and Best Performance by a Pop Single Artist. Originally written by composers Stuart Gorrell and Hoagy Carmichael….the song was Charles’ first work with Sid Feller….who produced, arranged and conducted the recording.  Charles then earned another Grammy for the follow-up “Hit the Road Jack”….written by R&B singer Percy Mayfield.

By late 1961, Charles had expanded his small road ensemble to a full-scale big band….partly as a response to increasing royalties and touring fees by becoming one of the few black artists to crossover into mainstream pop with such a level of creative control. This success, however, came to a momentary halt during a concert tour in November 1961….when a police search of Charles’ hotel room in Indianapolis, Indiana….leading to the discovery of heroin in his medicine cabinet. The case was eventually dropped as the search lacked a proper warrant by the police….and Charles soon returned to music.

While on the way from Louisiana to Oklahoma City in the early 1960’s….Ray Charles faced a near-death experience when the pilot of his plane lost visibility….as snow and the pilot’s failure to use defroster caused the windshield of the plane to become completely covered in ice….as the pilot made a few circles in the air before he was finally able to see through a small part of the windshield and land the plane. Charles placed a spiritual interpretation on the event by claiming that “something or someone which instruments cannot detect” was responsible for creating the small opening in the ice on the windshield which enabled the pilot to land the plane safely.

The 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music along with its sequel Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 2 helped to bring country music into the musical mainstream….as Charles’ version of the Don Gibson song “I Can’t Stop Loving You” topped the Pop chart for five weeks….while staying at No. 1 in the R&B chart for ten weeks….and also gave him his only number one record in the UK.  In 1962, he founded his own record label, Tangerine Records….which ABC-Paramount promoted and distributed….and subsequently had major pop hits in 1963 with “Busted”….becoming No. 4 in US and “Take These Chains From My Heart”….which became No. 8 in the US.

In 1965, Charles’ career was halted once more after being arrested for a third time for heroin use….when he agreed to go to rehab to avoid jail time….eventually kicking his habit at a clinic in Los Angeles.  After spending a year on parole, Charles reappeared in the charts in 1966 with a series of hits composed with the fledgling team of Ashford & Simpson (in Imasportsphile’s music library) including the dance number “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and “Let’s Go Get Stoned”….which became his first No. 1 R&B hit in several years. His cover of country artist Buck Owens’ “Crying Time” reached No. 6 on the pop chart and helped Charles win a Grammy Award the following March.  In 1967, he had a top twenty hit with another ballad “Here We Go Again”.

Charles’s renewed chart success, however, proved to be short lived….and by the 1970’s his music was rarely played on radio stations….partly due to the rise of psychedelic rock and harder forms of rock….as R&B music had reduced Charles’ radio appeal….along with his choosing to record pop standards and covers of contemporary rock and soul hits….partially because his earnings from owning his masters had taken away the motivation to write new material. Charles nonetheless continued to have an active recording career. Most of his recordings between 1968 and 1973 evoked strong reactions….as people either liked them a lot or strongly disliked them.  His 1972 album, “A Message from the People” included his unique gospel-influenced version of “America the Beautiful”, as well as a number of protest songs about poverty and civil rights were reason why Brother Ray was often criticized for his version of “America the Beautiful” because it was very drastically changed from the song’s original version. The common argument against this is that the words are scattered and changed….but the music in the background remains beautiful and untouched. Many people believed that this was a perfect representation of the freedom Americans are given….free to do what they want, so long as they follow the laws (music) that we are given….for all this lil ole chiweenie knows is that when Ray Charles performed this song at the introduction of the famous NO MAS NO MAS fight between Roberto Duran vs Sugar Ray Leonard….it set the stage for Duran’s embarrassing defeat.

In 1974, Charles left ABC Records and recorded several albums on his own Crossover Records label….when in 1975, he recorded a Stevie Wonder’s hit “Living for the City” later helped Charles win another Grammy.  In 1977, he reunited with Ahmet Ertegün and re-signed to Atlantic Records….where he recorded the album “True to Life”…as he remained with his old label until 1980…..however, the label had now begun to focus on rock acts and some of their prominent soul artists such as Aretha Franklin were starting to be neglected.  In November 1977 he appeared as the host of NBC’s Saturday Night Live…another video in the Imasportsphile archives.  In April 1979, his version of “Georgia on My Mind” was proclaimed the state song of Georgia….as an emotional Charles performed the song on the floor of the state legislature. Although he had notably supported the American Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s….Ray Charles was criticized for performing at the Sun City resort in South Africa in 1981….during an international boycott protesting that country’s apartheid policy.

So, any way you look at the life and times of Ray Charles….you are fortunate to be in the space of true genius….which has trancended through many generations as an American original….whose talent was incomparable and such a gift to those of us who just love his music.

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