16 October 2009
I saw the late Ray Charles live twice -- sequential gigs on a tour in the late seventies. Both show were great, but they couldn't have been more different. The first show was in Mobile, Alabama and Ray was playing to -- what can I call it -- his "commercial" audience. This show was designed to entertain anybody with even the smallest appreciation for his talent. He was playing to a mostly white audience, and entertain he did. He blew me away.
But I didn't know what was to come. The next show was at the New Orleans Performing Arts Center. Here he played a completely different set, this time to take serious jazz fans and blow their socks off. Striped down, improvisational, personal; I was awestruck by both his polished talent as an artist and also charisma as a showman.
I hear the recent film Ray is a good one, but I intentionally haven't seen it. I'm still savoring my memories of those two live show more than a generation ago. Ray, your genius will always live on in my heart and my soul.