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The Legacy of Ray Charles

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The summer was 1959. I was 16 years of age and on my way to the beach in New Bern, North Carolina. I had stopped off at a juke joint in Pleasant Hill, when I first heard the record/song “What’d I Say,” by Ray Charles.

I just loved the way it started out with the beat that made you move your feet and hands at the same time. Then when it got down to the “give and take um, uh” that just took it to another level. In an interview with Rhino Entertainment, Ray said that the song came about during a recording session and they had ten minutes of time left for recording.

Ray told the band and the Raeletts to follow his lead. Ray said they had so much fun jamming they later recorded the piece in New York and it became a number one hit. From there the rest is history. Ray Charles became known as “The Genius.”

Later I learned that he was the one who sung the song “I got a woman way cross-town” which had been recorded earlier in his career. I could identify with this follow the leader concept because at our youth choir practices at St. Matthew AME Zion Church, that was the way we would learn songs. Jeremiah Morgan, our pianist, would tell us not to worry about the verses just come in when he would tell us to. I can just see them having so much fun singing What’d I Say.

As a matter of fact I spent this past weekend listening to over 100 of his recordings and reading his history of the past fifty years. Ray did not have it easy. He was so frustrated in Jacksonville, Florida that he told his friend to pick a city as far from there as possible and that is where he would go. That is how he wound up in Seattle, Washington and of course met Quincy (another musical genius) Jones.

His views on racial matters was interesting. He described one of the schools for the blind he attended: they wanted to separate the kids by race (Blacks in one room and Whites in another) even though the kids could not see one another. He believed “give the people what they want and it will not matter and I will give them good music”.

Ray had a gift of writing music and even greater talent to take an already written song and make it better. This is what he did with America the Beautiful that even Ronald Reagan had to listen to at a White House performance. Ray rewrote some of the words because they were too White he said. The thing I like so much about his music is that it was simple and told a story almost everyone could relate to.

Ray will be missed but his music will live on and remain a source of inspiration for generations to come. If you would like to get a sample of Ray Charles’ distinct voice and style go to blackvoicenews.com and hit Ray Charles sample hits.

Some of my favorites are: I’ve got a Woman; Lonely Avenue; Night Time is the Right Time; Tell the Truth; I’m Moving On; Sticks and Stones; Georgia on my Mind; Them that Got; Hit the Road Jack; Unchain my Heart; I Can’t Stop Loving You; Busted; Ol' Man River; Making Whoopee; I Don’t Need no Doctor; Eleanor Rigby; Yesterday; America the Beautiful; Rainy Night in Georgia; Living for the City, and I’ll be Good to You. All of his music is good to listen to and relax with.

County Should Take a Queue From Sheriff Doyle

The County of Riverside should take a queue from Bob Doyle, Sheriff of Riverside County when it comes to Human Resource planning and practices. Several years ago Sheriff Doyle assembled a group of citizens from all over the county as his advisory committee. He had them confront the reason why Blacks, Latinos and women did not consider employment in law enforcement.

He did not tell them what to say, he wanted the hard brutal truth from them. Plus this group would not tell him anything else but the truth. He took their recommendations and has been implementing some of their suggestions with some degree of success. He has reached out to the community for recruitment, hired minorities in positions that will lead to advancement, promoted Blacks and Hispanics, paid close attention to discipline and terminations and holds all management accountable for putting his policies into practices.

Now I’m not saying Doyle’s system would prevent discrimination from going on in the county, but I do believe it would go a long way in correcting some of the allegations of misconduct in the Riverside County Human Resources Department.

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