Coming October 29 from Universal Pictures is Taylor Hackford's highly anticipated biopic on the life of Ray Charles, Ray, starring Jamie Foxx as the legend. Check out a touching, exciting trailer for the film here or here. Jamie Foxx would appear to give a remarkable performance.
The soundtrack to the film is equally remarkable, featuring 17 Ray Charles classics, the limited-edition package includes a bonus DVD with four performance clips by Foxx as Charles. You can listen to the entire album here.
It's a strange and amazing time for Charles, who died June 10 at the age of 73: he is arguably more popular and visible now than at any time since the mid-'60s, with the forthcoming film, the release at the end of August of his platinum duets record, Genius Loves Company, and of course the sea of tributes surrounding his death.
Here was mine:
Ray Charles - the Genius, the High Priest of Soul - who died today at 73, did two things that tower above his other manifest accomplishments: he wrapped his arms more powerfully than any other artist around the width and breadth of American musical forms and drew them together into something beautifully and soulfully his own, and in doing this he embodied contradictions as extreme as the American experience itself.
The contradictions and broad musical reach began in his childhood in Albany, Georgia, and Greenville, Florida, where his family was poor and the Depression deep. The standard difficulties of poverty and black life in a segregated South escalated to tragedy when at five Charles witnessed the drowning death of his brother in his mother's take-in laundry tub, and at six lost his sight to (presumably) glaucoma. Given a choice, I imagine he would have chosen the order of the tragedies reversed: imagine such a sight seared into your brain with nothing to replace it for the next 68 years of your life.
And yet for all the blunt force of the hand of fate, Charles's early life was also touched with refinement and delicacy: he was sent away at age seven to the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind, where he learned to read, write and arrange music in Braille, score for big bands, and play piano, organ, sax, clarinet, trumpet under the influence of such notable musical sophisticates as big band clarinetist Artie Shaw, jazz piano giant Art Tatum, and classical composers Chopin and Sibelius. But at night, in the dark, he also loved to listen to the raw melodies and hillbilly twang of the Grand Ole Opry on the radio, and to the sanctified abandon of gospel and the secular soul-venting of the blues.