Animated Interview: The Great Ray Charles on Being Himself and Singing True

“You know,” says Ray Charles in this new ani­mat­ed inter­view from Blank on Blank, “what I got to live up to is being myself. If I do that the rest will take care of itself.”

Charles always sound­ed like no one else. When he played or sang just a few notes, you would imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­nize his dis­tinc­tive sound, that unique blend­ing of gospel and blues. As he explains in the inter­view, his style was a direct reflec­tion of who he was. “I can’t help what I sound like,” he says. “What I sound like is what I am, you know? I can­not be any­thing oth­er than what I am.”

Blank on Blank is a project that brings lost inter­views with famous cul­tur­al fig­ures back to life. The Charles video is the 12th episode in Blank on Blank’s ongo­ing series with PBS Dig­i­tal Stu­dios. The audio of Charles is from the Joe Smith Col­lec­tion at the Library of Con­gress. Smith is a for­mer record com­pa­ny exec­u­tive who record­ed over 200 inter­views with music indus­try icons for his book Off the Record: An Oral His­to­ry of Pop­u­lar Music. He talked with Charles on June 3, 1987, when the musi­cian was 56 years old. You can hear the com­plete, unedit­ed inter­view at the Library of Con­gress Web site.

In the inter­view, Charles says that being true to him­self was a night-by-night thing. “I don’t sing ‘Geor­gia’ like the record. I sing it true,” he says. “I sing what I sing true. Each night I sing it the way I feel that night.” For an exam­ple of Charles being true to him­self, here he is per­form­ing “Geor­gia On My Mind” on the Dick Cavett Show on Sep­tem­ber 18, 1972:

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Library of Con­gress Releas­es Audio Archive of Inter­views with Rock ‘n’ Roll Icons

Ani­ma­tions Revive Lost Inter­views with David Fos­ter Wal­lace, Jim Mor­ri­son & Dave Brubeck


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