If they could keep it up ad nauseam and beyond with Reagan, we can keep it going on the Right Reverend Ray Charles, who, after all, should be remembered for more than a day or two.
Julian Bond wrote a fantastic op-ed piece in Tuesday's Boston Globe, which I missed. I'm honored to have received it from him via email today—far and away the best thing I've seen on Ray Charles. Everything that Jeanne D'Arc and Mat Callahan and I had wanted to say, Bond says better and more fully:
Soul's everymanYou've got to read the whole thing.
By Julian Bond | June 15, 2004
RAY CHARLES first came to many over the AM airwaves from a world that has almost vanished, the highly segregated 1950s black South. Black people had little contact with or interference from whites. Charles inhabited that world, and he celebrated it as had few before him.
Wherever we were while listening on scratchy radios, before we ever actually saw him in person, we knew where his congregations found him -- in roadhouses and honky-tonks. We knew him, the places where he sang, and the people he sang to and about.
His audiences were indeed congregations. He was known then as the Bishop of Atlanta, the Right Reverend Ray Charles, because he dared take church songs and secularize them. His music was more sophisticated than that usually heard at Atlanta's Royal Peacock or Washington's Howard Theatre or New York's Apollo. . . .
If the characters were standard and the sentiments sometimes cliched, the voice made all the difference. No one sang like that. No one made the cliche singular and personal. No one made you feel as bad -- as if his sad song had happened to you alone.
Ray Charles seduced with his voice. He once wished in song he "could holler like a mountain jack," and holler he did. In cries and wails, screams and moans, punctuated by church chords, throbbing from the gutter on Saturday nights, he was everyman.
Julian Bond was also one of the featured speakers at the memorial service for Charles, held earlier today.
Mr. Bond was also kind enough to send me a poem he wrote years ago. Charles liked it and put it on the back of a record: