A good Woman & Ray Charles (Blog 2)

Ray Charles Robinson was an American singer-songwriter, musician and composer known only as Ray Charles and sometimes referred to as “The Genius.” Soul music can be defined as music that incorporates elements of rhythm and blues and gospel music, popularized by African-Americans. Characterized by an emphasis on vocals and an impassioned improvisatory delivery, it is associated with performers such as Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Otis Redding, and of course Ray Charles. Ray Charles was a pioneer in the genre of soul music during the 1950s by fusing rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles in his music. He also helped racially integrate country and pop music during the 1960s. He had many life struggles including the loss of his vision but that did not stop him from being a large musical influence to so many artists with varying musical styles. His style and success in the genres of rhythm and blues and jazz had an influence on a number of highly successful artists, including Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, and Billy Joel.  According to Joe Levy, a music editor for “Rolling Stone”, “The hit records he made for Atlantic in the mid-50’s mapped out everything that would happen to rock ‘n’ roll and soul music in the years that followed”.

The song “I got a Woman” builds on “It Must Be Jesus” by the Southern Tones, which Ray Charles was listening to on the radio while on the road with his band in the summer of 1954. He and a member of his band, trumpeter Renald Richard, penned a song that was built along a gospel-frenetic pace with secular lyrics and a jazz-inspired rhythm and blues background. The song would be one of the prototypes for what later became termed as “soul music”. The mix of Gospel in Blues on this track was shocking in some circles, but also made the song accessible to a wider audience. The decision to mix styles happened organically. “I was just being myself,” Charles once said. “Of course it created a lot of static from a lot of people. But then, on the other hand, it was a hit. It was a hit in the black community and the white community”. It’s still a well known hit and classic this day, covered and sampled by many artists from Elvis Presley to Kanye West.

“I Got a Woman” was the first hit song to use secular lyrics in a Gospel style. Some people consider this fusion of R&B, Gospel and Jazz as the first ever Soul record. He brought the most engaging aspects of black music into one form and synthesizes that led to soul and, ultimately, funk a decade later. He changed the words from loving God to loving a woman, which at that time was shocking. However, he did something spectacular in music ultimately changing the way music was heard and felt by many people around the world.