Today in Music History, February 18

Ray Charles

54 years ago today, in 1959 28 year old Ray Charles went into the studio and recorded his classic ” What I’d Say “.   The song was improvised one evening late in 1958 when Charles, his orchestra, and backup singers had played their entire set list at a show and still had time left; the response from many audiences was so enthusiastic that Charles announced to his producer that he was going to record it. After his run of R&B hits, this song finally broke Charles into the mainstream of the  music business and itself sparked a new sub-genre of R&B titled soul.  The song was recorded in only a few takes at Atlantic Records with at the time the most advanced 8 track recording equipment.   The gospel  influences combined with the sexual innuendo in the song made it not only widely popular but very controversial to both white and black audiences. It earned Ray Charles his first gold record and has been one of the most influential songs in R&B and rock history.  Check out below one of his earlier live performances of the song at the Newport Jazz Festival.  The audience loves the song!

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