David Ritz is a lucky man. In the course of his life he wrote autobiographies for Soul legends as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Ray Charles. These bios were the result of long and intimate conversations, a fan boy's dream come true. All these autobiographies are interesting not only for the lives they portray but also for the era they take place in. At the time these artists were at the height of there career America was changing. During the sixties when the civil rights movement reached its peak they had there biggest selling records and were pushing the boundaries of the genre they were operating in.
It is often argued that Ray Charles and artist like him played an important part in the civil rights movement. His records crossed over from R&B to Pop, allowing the white middleclass teenagers to be introduced to Black culture. Not everybody had the patience or commitment to go to a civil rights rally; everybody can enjoy a good piece of music. Not only did Ray cross over he wrote some new rules as well. Ray was one of the first to combine Jazz, Soul and Country, appealing to a very broad audience of all colors and dominations. Ray was as much appreciated by the college kids up north and the hillbillies down south. Ray integrated concerts and gave the black man a human face, which at the time it was sadly lacking in mainstream white America.
David Ritz describes his conversations as some of the most frank yet closed he's had throughout his career. Ray never left out the sordid details of his life; the drugs and infidelity is vividly portrait. All of it written down in raw language, Ray liked to swear! At times you forget Ray is blind as he describes the women in his life, "Man the things I've seen" he even exclaims when he talks about his nights of sex on the road. Yet he also found Ray lacking the capability to reflect on the why's in his life. In contrast to Marvin Gaye who thoroughly analyzed himself, Ray seemed to ride the current, act on instinct and gut, without asking why he made the decisions he made. We find Ray Charles claiming that he did drugs, drugs never did him. Ray tells us his music comes from his Soul, he sang it as he felt it. Inevitably it was his unwillingness or unable ness to reflect that made him such a robust performer. When David Ritz asked Ray a couple of years later if he wanted some revisions for a reprint Ray exclaimed "Don't change a goddamn word!".