Ray Charles, September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004

I saw Ray Charles only once, from the back row of Brooklyn College’s Gershwin Auditorium. Far from the expected rote review of hits in a (let’s face it) second-level venue, he kicked ass, kicked the piano, and nearly fell off the bench dancing a couple of times. He played a bunch of songs from his (at the time) new album, yet another excursion into country music. He crossed genres with ease, taught legions of rock-and-rollers how to sing and how to (wish they could) play piano, and sang “America the Beautiful” so you felt like it was.

Dear Lord above, can’t you know I’m pining,
Tears all in my eyes
Send down that cloud with a silver lining,
Lift me to Paradise

Show me that river, take me across,
Wash all my troubles away
Like that lucky old sun, give me nothing to do
But roll around heaven all day.

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