Brother Ray: Ray Charles' Own Story Paperback – Oct 27 2004
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Barnes & Noble Review, 2/17/12
“One of David Ritz's finest r&b as-told-tos…Rich in insight as well as incident.”
About the Author
David Ritz is the author of Faith in Time: The Life of Jimmy Scott, Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye, and many other books with or about Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and B.B. King. He is a three-time winner of the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award. He lives in Los Angeles.
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His youth was hard, becoming blind around age 7, going to a special school and losing his mom when she was only in her thirties were hard. Music is of course the theme that runs through it all, though I personally would have liked to have read more about the musical side of his life than the two things that make up an important part of the book: heroin and sex.
He seems to have been addicted to both but he has always said that heroin was his own choice and that he wasn't pushed into it by other people. That makes it all very openhearted and in a way bearable. The part where he decided to stop smack is heartbreaking and genuine.
He also talks lightly about his blindness, which is great, you forget most of the time that he couldn't see a thing.
The ghostwriter himself has carefully written that Ray himself went over the pages time and time again so we can be pretty sure that everything in it is true to his heart.
We could have done with some more musical history, but it's a great book to read nonetheless
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!".
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