Been listening to Ray Charles a lot. Grew up listening to him. This is one of the albums my father, an unabashed fan, had in his collection. Both he and Ray were unassuming in the way they got everybody in our house to fall in love with this music, with this genius. I cannot think of a concrete moment at which I realized that I loved Ray Charles. I just don't remember not loving him.
At a 65th birthday party/roast for my father some years ago, I tried to explain to everybody what it was like in our household. This is what it was like.
I can recall feeling proud to "know" Ray Charles. My sister, brothers, and I didn't think that Brother Ray was actually a member of our family. Still, it was as if he were a beloved famous uncle whom we'd never met because he was too busy traveling the world being a legend. We -- and our mother, too -- viewed him with reverence, as much because my father did as because of Ray's inarguable artistic gift.
When Ray died on June 10, 2004, my mother called me in the middle of the day to ask if I'd heard. We hung on the phone for a few minutes not saying much, as if having a wake. I sat down that evening and wrote a letter to the editor at the Washington Post, linked here.
Daddy said he didn't care to listen to Ray's "Genius Loves Company" CD, released after Ray died, because he could hear the sickness in his voice. I listened to it cautiously, wanting to avoid another swell of grief. I came to love that CD. Here is one of my favorite songs, the duet with Bonnie Raitt, "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?"