Grand Ole Opry Gives Rare Salute to Genius Ray Charles

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Darius Rucker, Ronnie Milsap, Charlie Wilson, Boyz II Men, LeAnn Rimes and Cam will seem in February’s particular.

As an impoverished blind little one in Florida, Ray Charles grew up listening to the nation and western stars on the Grand Ole Opry broadcasts. That music of his childhood stayed near his coronary heart for the remainder of his profession, and it was his landmark two-volume set, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, that modified nation music within the ’60s.

Charles, who died in 2004, would be the topic of a brand new public tv particular airing in February. During a particular taping Monday on the Grand Ole Opry, a various solid of singers, together with Darius Rucker, Ronnie Milsap, Charlie Wilson, Boyz II Men, LeAnn Rimes, Cam and extra, honored the soul genius.

The uncommon tribute from the nation music establishment was in partnership with the Ray Charles Foundation, whose president Valerie Ervin mentioned getting the popularity from the Opry was a precedence for her.

“The Opry meant the whole lot to him. He liked everyone on the Opry,” Ervin mentioned. “He liked nation music, so to have it right here, it simply seals it for me. I felt what he felt again in 1962 when he actually needed to be part of the nation world and there was no higher place to do it than the Opry.”

Charles’ resolution to file a group of nation songs from artists like Hank Williams and Eddy Arnold was good timing for the style, mentioned Diane Pecknold, professor of ladies’s and gender research on the University of Louisville.

“He got here alongside at a time when the Country Music Association was aggressively working to recast the picture of its viewers,” Pecknold mentioned. “The business and the favored tradition at giant tended to view the nation music viewers as backward hicks, racists, retrograde folks usually.”

Recorded in New York with lush strings and backing choir, Charles doesn’t simply reinvent the songs, he left his distinctive mark on them, fusing soul and jazz, nation lyrics and orchestral pop. Fifty years later, the album nonetheless holds up as one of many biggest of the style.

The file spent 14 weeks on the highest of the Billboard albums chart. “I Can’t Stop Loving You” spent 5 weeks at No. 1 on the pop charts and 16 weeks at No. 1 on the R&B charts and received the 1962 Grammy Award for finest rhythm and blues recording. The first quantity offered greater than 1 million data, so a second quantity got here out shortly after. Country publishing instantly turned in excessive demand as different artists sought to duplicate Charles’ success.

“He was extra profitable than anybody in taking nation music to pop audiences,” mentioned Pecknold.

Rucker, who hosted the TV particular, mentioned that artists like Charles and Charley Pride have been instrumental in his personal path to nation music.

“Ray went out on a limb and took an opportunity and no one needed him to do it,” Rucker mentioned. “He did it anyway. It nonetheless stands the check of time. And now for some place just like the Opry to pay tribute to Ray is big.”

Later within the 1980s, Charles would hit the nation charts with one other album of nation songs, “Friendship,” together with a No. 1 nation hit duet with Willie Nelson on “Seven Spanish Angels.”

The TV particular features a riveting efficiency of that tune by Nelson’s son, Lukas Nelson, who shared pictures of his dad and Charles from his final birthday. From Travis Tritt’s energetic efficiency of “I’m Movin’ On,” to Chris Young’s model of “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” the nation performers let loose their finest soulful renditions for the particular.

Boyz II Men had the daunting job of taking over “Georgia On My Mind,” arguably one in every of Charles’ finest recordings, and the trio of singers with their harmonic vocal runs did justice to the basic. “One of Ray’s biggest traits is how he is ready to take his time and so that you can ingest the whole lot that he mentioned,” mentioned Shawn Stockman, of the R&B group. “He did precisely what he wanted versus making an attempt to do an excessive amount of.”

The tribute, 14 years after his loss of life, raises questions on why he has been neglected of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Most of the performers on the particular consider he deserves a spot among the many nation legends for exposing the style to a much wider world.

“I might by no means inform the Country Music Hall of Fame who to place in, however I believe all of the artists, in the event that they let Ray in, they’d perceive and consider that Ray ought to be there,” Rucker mentioned. Ervin mentioned that Charles did say that he needed to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, however he was happy with his work within the style it doesn’t matter what.

“His perspective was, ‘I do know what I did for the nation music world, so if I’m by no means in there, I’m OK,’” Ervin mentioned.