June 11, 2004


Ray Charles.jpg

Stars pause to recall a music legend

Prior to the 2004 National Academy of Popular Music/Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony, held June 10 in New York, many of this year's honorees, performers and presenters talked about Ray Charles, who died earlier in the day at age 73 after a long fight with liver disease.

Here is what the stars said as they walked the red carpet at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square:

* Matchbox Twenty singer Rob Thomas: "It's a really sad day for music. On a day like today, especially when you're honoring talent, to lose one of our most talented is pretty sad."

* Songwriter Barrett Strong: "[Word of Charles' death] blew me away -- I was looking at the news all day, and I didn't hear anything about it. I think about him all the time, you know, because as a kid, he was my idol . . . a lot of times, these things shock you so bad, I don't know how I can be standing here now hearing this news. I was shocked when a gentleman told me that he passed away today. The last thing I heard about Ray Charles was that he was having hip surgery or something; this was a couple months ago."

* Songwriter Hal David, the SHoF chairman and CEO: "Ray Charles was one of the great creative spirits in the music business. He was the most unique interpreter of songs -- nobody sang quite like Ray Charles. He did country songs, and he made them sound like the national anthem. Nobody sang the blues better than Ray. He was a great friend of us. He was inducted into the [SHoF] in 1993 for his lifetime achievements, and he was always there for us. Last year, he was here playing for us when we inducted Van Morrison. Wherever music is played, long after I'm gone, he'll be played."

* Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones: "I'm just blown away. I only found out a day or two ago that he was seriously ill. And then I just found out [about his death] -- a Russian journalist just told me, so I'm still a bit in shock about it. He was such a huge influence on me and every other English musician that I know. I don't think there really would have been an English music scene [without him] -- he was an integral part of it. He was the guy that opened the door to R&B music to the world."

* Singer-songwriter Daryl Hall: "[John Oates and I] knew him -- I can't say we knew him well, but we crossed paths with him many times. He was one of the great 20th century songwriters, performers [and] innovators -- what he did changed music."

* Producer Jimmy Jam: "I didnít realize 'til I was older that one of my favorite Ray Charles songs, his version of "I Can't Stop Loving You," was really a country song . . . it really takes me back, listening to his music, and to remember his influence on the records that were played in my house growing up. It's very bittersweet, but we know that his music will live on."

* Singer Brian McKnight: "I have two adopted uncles -- everyone knows Stevie [Wonder] is one, Ray is the other . . . I don't think we've had a person that has left us in the last, I can't say how long, that has meant as much to all of us, not just musically, as Ray has. I haven't really had a chance to reflect on this because I just found out, but while it's sad that he's leaving us, he's left us with so much that we can always go back to and remember him by."

* Former Doobie Brothers singer Michael McDonald: "He was a wonderful guy, every bit the legend . . . he made music his own thing. He made it something that will never be again, really. It came from him in a particularly unique and special way. Those of us who grew up in the generation that listened to Ray Charles as he released his records were forever changed by the sound of this guy. He taught the world what it was like to sing with soul. It's just a wonderful legacy that he's left."

* Stevie Wonder: "It's a broken heart to know that we have physically lost Ray Charles. It's a relief knowing that he's not going to suffer anymore . . . it's a celebration to know that death physically can never, ever kill the spirit of the genius of Ray Charles. He has left a legacy that will outlive all of us here in this building and beyond, and that's an incredible feat."

Charles' Genius Loves Company, a duets album featuring McDonald, Norah Jones, Willie Nelson and others, is scheduled for an Aug. 31 release on Concord Records.

-- By Chris M. Junior

Posted by medleyville at June 11, 2004 12:56 AM