This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: THe Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #429: Georgia on my Mind by Ray Charles.
Ray Charles has had a long and illustrious career in music. He is given much credit with helping to launch the genre of music known as Soul, as well as, helping to bring Soul and R. & B. music into the Country sphere. He had three #1 hits and sold millions of albums. Charles was one of the inaugural inductees into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. He has won 17 Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. He was even honoured with a commemorative stamp bearing his likeness by the US Postal Service. “Georgia on my Mind” is his most famous hit song and has been adopted as the official state song of his home state of Georgia.
Like many older songs on this list, “Georgia on my Mind”, although most closely associated with Ray Charles is, in fact, not a Ray Charles song at all. “Georgia on my Mind” was originally written and recorded by another great American performer, Hoagy Carmichael, waaaaay back in 1930!!! Ray Charles recorded and released his version in 1960. There is some dispute about the origin of this song. Some people claim that the “Georgia” being referenced in the song’s title is not the state of Georgia but, instead, Hoagy Carmichael’s sister, Georgia. Carmichael claimed that this was not the case but, until Ray Charles came along and settled the matter with his definitive take, rumours continued to persist.
As you may know, actor Jamie Foxx did a star turn as Ray Charles in the movie, “Ray”….winning the Best Actor Oscar for his work. The movie went a long way toward bringing the story of Ray Charles’ life to a wider audience. Ray Charles lost his sight as a child due to a bout of glaucoma. As a young man, he was forced to wear, what became, his trademark dark glasses in order to hide his damaged eyes from paying audiences. Charles, also, battled sexual exploitation and financial improprieties conducted by Club owners in his early days. Those experiences helped fuel a strong desire to be in as complete control of his own career and personal affairs as possible. Consequently, Ray Charles forged a long and successful career on his own terms.
His life was not without controversy, too. He fathered 13 children by ten different women throughout his life. He, also, headlined a concert set at Sun City in the heyday of South African apartheid (Charles claimed to be trying to unify the races by appearing). Finally, his greatest hit song honours a US State known for being among the most repressive when it comes to civil rights for people of colour. When Ray Charles discussed this, he claimed that for a black man to be the one singing the official state song meant more than any politician’s law when it came to recognizing the prominent role of black people in Georgian society.
There is no disputing the fact that “Georgia on my Mind” is a lovely song and that Ray Charles is a talented musician who has overcome much to achieve his high level of success. So, without further delay, here is “Georgia on my Mind” by the late, great Ray Charles.
The link to the music video for Georgia on my Mind by Ray Charles can be found here.
There is a website dedicated to preserving the legacy of Ray Charles. A link to that website can be found here.
Thanks to KEXP for providing the inspiration to help write this post. A link to their wonderful website can be found here.