Barbara enjoys popular music more than I do (I prefer keyboard jazz), but we have both remained fans of the great names from our younger days--The Beatles, Stones, Carly Simon and others. Especially we share a love of Ray Charles. How is it possible to listen to, say, “Georgia” or “Hit the Road, Jack,” and not be moved or made to smile?
Getting old with music and musicians makes these associations all the more affecting. Over drinks, we recently listened to a CD of duets Charles recorded before his death, “Genius Loves Company,” released in 2004. As always, the music touched us. But whereas some artists’ voices age wonderfully, taking on rich, new qualities, others don't. It can be painful when favorite singers at the end of their careers test your loyalty. And make you think about your own future.
--It’s really a great album, don’t you think?
--Yes, I do. Very good. Now this is who?
--They must’ve been fighting each other to be paired up with him. I mean their agents.
--They had to know he didn’t have much longer. Who in the business wouldn’t want to sing a duet with Ray Charles?
--I’d sure like to.
--That’s right, I forgot. As a movie extra you’re part of the show business community.
--When Jamie Fox played him, I bet he would’ve wanted me in a crowd scene.
--Well, honey, I don’t think there were all that many parts for your character type. What did you call it?
--Grandma geezer roles.
--I don’t think there were so many of those. Twenty, even ten years ago, with some makeup you could’ve been in long shots of white bobby soxers going nuts in the early part of Ray’s career. Otherwise, mostly the female roles went to black actresses playing women Ray banged on the road.
--Now that’s just awful. Listen to that… I know he has tax problems, but all the same.
--Yes, it’s awful. It does not sound like “a very good year.”
--Even with swelling strings and heavy use of timpani.
--God, such a long career. You’d think his pride wouldn’t let him do it.
--Well, the tax man came to Willie, and the tax man said, “Mister Nelson, to stay out of the slam you need to make several more million than you’re making now.”
--So he got the Genius Loves Company gig.
--God, “When I was seventeen”-- When he was seventeen, that’s when Willie started growing his outlaw braids.
--He got his first pirate bandana back then, too.
--“When I was twenty-one”—here’s Ray. Oh God, no, Ray, don’t… He’s still great on the higher registers, but on this...
--I love him forever, but that’s not good. God, he sounds like it’s time for his meds and the lunch tray.
--OK, here’s Willie again… Yes, blue-blooded girls of independent means. Judging from his voice, I think Willie these days would mostly like the girls of independent means to give him a pint or two of blood, not a nooner. “Here, darlin’, as long as you’re up, wyan’t you take an’ empty this here drool cup for me?”
--That’s not funny.
--I’m sorry. I just think the recording tarnishes his reputation.
--Don’t ferget them revanooers.
--I know. But Willie should’ve done the time instead.
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