« On Atrocities… | Main | On Progress... »

November 13, 2004

On Ray...

When President Idiot declared a national day of mourning I went along with his proclamation, but I gave his bad joke personal meaning by using the occasion to mourn the death of Ray Charles. A true genius, Charles was one of a handful of musicians whose work functioned on a spiritual level, reaching inside me and inspiring cosmic wonder and awe. Carlos Santana, Pete Townshend, Aretha Franklin and Odetta have done that on any sort of routine basis.

Charles’ story really isn’t unique – plenty of people are blinded at an early age and there are plenty of fantastic musicians out there, many of whom never get out of the garage. And, yeah, it’s tough being poor and it’s tough being black and it’s tough being a kid. Tens of millions of people fall into that broad category.

Ray Charles didn’t overcome those disadvantages; he used them and all other parts of his life in the creation of his music. That’s what any good communicator does. But Charles took 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 and got a whole lot more than four, and that’s what any great genius does.

I can now add my voice to the many who have praised the movie Ray. It was a great magic trick. Within minutes – seconds, actually, Jamie Foxx disappeared from the screen and the Ray Charles I had seen on concert so many times and on television so many times came forth and, on a gut level, I always felt I was seeing the real thing. There were quite a number amazing performances – Curtis Armstrong got a chance to play a straight role, and he did it quite well – but as amazing as Ray Charles was, Jamie Foxx was all the more amazing because he wasn’t born Ray Charles.

Hollywood has a horrible track record when it comes to bio-pics. Generally, even the best of them fall in the hazy area between whitewash and complete bullshit. Perhaps the best of them, Yankee Doodle Dandy, was almost complete bullshit. Great performances, wonderful casting, and a swell story that couldn’t have been less accurate had they put George M. Cohan on horseback and sent him to Canada to chase bootleggers. In the madness of Hollywood, they would have given Ray a snappy ending, something more than just saying he got better and continued his amazing career to the love of all right up until he died a couple months before the movie was released. Nope, they gave us the story and when it was over they got off stage with remarkable self-restraint and a couple gallons of class.

Go see Ray.

Posted by Mike Gold at November 13, 2004 04:43 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)