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Ray Charles: Genius Loves Company

Ray Charles

My favorite Ray Charles story: It’s a breezy summer night some two decades ago, back when 10 bucks would buy you lawn space for a big-name concert at Toronto’s lakefront amphitheater. Brother Ray is on stage, wowing a capacity crowd. Somebody to my left shouts, “Hey, Ray, play ‘Unchain My Heart.'” To which Charles grinningly drawls, “Sorry, man, can’t do requests.” In a booming whisper, the disgruntled fan mutters, “Who the hell does he think he is?” To which my neighbor responds, “Um, he thinks he’s Ray Charles.” And, indeed, he always did-and without arrogance but rather a self-satisfied joie de vivre that underscored a half-century of inimitable genius.

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