One of the Wonders of Pop Music – Ray Charles

Throughout the 1950s, Ray Charles scored big on the rhythm-and-blues chart, and closed out the decade with a number-one hit single, his iconic "What'd I Say". So, it came as something of a shock when in 1962, he released an album of Country-and-Western standards, entitled, "MODERN SOUNDS IN COUNTRY AND WESTERN MUSIC". His new record label, ABC-Paramount, thinking they had signed an R & B artist, was equally shocked, but saw the commercial potential, and wasted little time in releasing a number of singles from the album, beginning with, "I Can't Stop Loving Your" which overnight went number one across the nation.


Featuring gorgeous string orchestra arrangements and a lush 12-voice choir, this was decidedly NOT country-and-western music, at least not in the traditional sense, certainly not what the good ole' boys were accustomed to punching up on the jukebox at the local bar-and-grill.


In some quarters, such as anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line, this music was an outrageous blasphemy, an unwelcome intrusion by a black rhythm-and-blues singer into the heretofore sacred territory of white rural American music. Only it didn't stop there. Next up, was "Born to Lose", then "You Don't Know Me." The only people who didn't protest (at least not very loudly) were the songwriters and music publishers on Music Row, in Nashville. They were making a financial killing with royalties from Ray's pop interpretations of their country classics. It wasn't just the high-polish pop arrangements that sold the records to a white national audience, it was Ray's warm, heart-felt vocal delivery. He put his unique stamp on these country standards and made them his own.


Nothing succeeds like success, and before the year was out, Ray returned to the studio, and recorded a follow-up LP, entitled "MODERN SOUNDS IN COUNTRY AND WESTERN MUSIC, VOL 2", and scored his fourth million-seller with "You Are My Sunshine."


Ray never stood still on past accomplishments, and after his foray into country music, he moved on to record the music of the Beatles, and scored big with two of Lennon-McCartney's hit singles, "Yesterday" and "Elenore Rigby', proving conclusively what Frank Sinatra had once said about him: "There is only one genius in our business, and that's Ray Charles."


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