“Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles (1960)

15 09 2008

For most of my childhood, I thought Ray Charles was my third grandpa, the one I just hadn’t met yet.  I remember seeing his face on album and magazine covers, and thinking he was the epitome of pure cool.  I didn’t even know he was blind until much later.  I thought he wore the sunglasses all the time because he was, well, Ray Charles.

But Mr. Charles was as cool as you could get, at least in my opinion.  He was a pioneer, and his mark on western popular music is unmistakable.  He was, truly, a giant.

This song is kind of a lazy pick, as it is one of his signature tunes.  But it has always knocked me speechless.  You just want to sway to it.  Or at least I do.  I also want you to really hear it, before it shows up again in some vacuous tourism commercial.

Notice how the performance just seethes with tension, as if the musicians are holding back some powerful force.  Like there is so much they want to tell us about Georgia, but they can’t do it outright, so they tell us in the spaces, and in the phrasing, until they explode forward to the ending.  Awesome stuff.

And that voice!  Mr. Charles could sing the ingredients off a box of laundry detergent, and I’d buy it!  Both the record AND the detergent!

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One response

15 10 2008
Bart

One of the all time all time great moments in music. Frankly, after Ray did this, no one should have had the nerve to record it again- WIllie Nelson included. I actually sang this at a Karioke (spelling?) bar in Salem, OR. Alcohol was involved. Don’t tell anyone.

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