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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Rest In Peace

Music legend Ray Charles has passed away at age 73.

His records were played often in the house where I grew up, even though my parents were a full generation younger than Charles himself. He wrote many fine songs, but made a number of songs from sources as disparate as blues, country, gospel, and Tin Pan Alley eternally his. Any list of classic Charles tunes would seem incomplete, except that I will note that his rendition of "America the Beautiful" is the most beautiful rendering of any patriotic song I have ever heard, due both to its uniquely American rhythm and complete lack of the bombast and pomposity that mar nearly all national songs.

My grandfather, who unfortunately had some tendency to harbor less-than-fully-enlightened attitudes regarding race relations, was especially touched by his music. I have some truly fond memories of spending an afternoon transferring all of my grandfather's old Ray Charles records to casette tapes so that he could listen to them in the car. Charles' inspired piano playing and distinctive voice could always cut through the hissing of even the scratchiest, most worn vinyl and speak directly to the heart.

His death will be mourned by music lovers everywhere, and he and his voice and his spirit will be missed.


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