Remembering Ray…Again

by Adewale Dada

I went, I saw and I pondered. The almost three hour soon-to-be classic “Ray” had just concluded and strangely enough, moviegoers had not made a beeline for the exit door. The intensity of emotions portrayed by the characters in this epic recreation of the complex, yet outstanding life of the legendary Ray Charles, was sufficient to keep some of us in an emotional quagmire that warranted some serious thought.

For weeks, the film industry had touted the movie as one of the greatest things to hit the screen in 2004 (apart from the Red Sox’s miracle performance against the Yankees, I think I heard that statement like a gazillion times!). However, the professionalism of the film’s cast, dominated by the sterling performance given by Jamie Foxx who played the lead role, is sure to give the story of Ray Charles’ life, a prime position in the annals of Hollywood history. Jamie Foxx, to say the least was brilliant in his portrayal of the late jazz impresario. He delivered a realism that has been missing from the screen for some time, giving what I consider his best mimic act (something he is quite adept at) since he stumbled into the entertainment industry as a comedian. However, Foxx gave us something more: a brutally honest look into the times, tribulations and triumphs of the man Frank Sinatra nicknamed “The Genius”.

From the rural south, Ray Charles conquered the stigma of blindness, racism, drugs and an insatiable thirst for female companionship to become the father of modern soul music. Renowned and reviled for his fusion of black gospel tunes with the raunchy (politically correct “sensual”) strings of the blues, Ray Charles achieved an unparalleled level of success that saw him climb to the pinnacles of stardom, commanding the respect and veneration of millions along the way. Watching the movie, I sensed that Ray Charles was always a lonely man, somehow, someway, seeking to see beyond his visual limitations into the realm of those who could. For me, one of the most moving scenes occurs when Ray as a rookie in the music business, sits by his beloved piano and overhears some band members planning on a night out with some ladies. He tries to get in on the plan but his naïve attempt at having some fun is nipped in the bud, as a band member lies to him, stating that their transportation had limited sitting (in other words, it sucks to hog a blind man along while trying to get your groove on!). As the fun squad leaves laughing, Ray sits alone, unsmiling; struggling hard to restrain the aura of frustration of a cold and hurting world from masking the beauty of his soul.

Despite the rocks of challenges that littered his path while here, Ray Charles still became an icon of resilience and hope to many around the world. His contributions to society, both monetary and otherwise should be a challenge to all humanity who have two eyes, witnessing the harsh reality life dishes out to the less-privileged and still turn (well, develop one for our convenience ) a blind eye, when we can reach out and lend a helping hand. Ray Charles led a beautiful life; parts of which should obviously not be mimicked; and I hope the biographical drama of this legend will be an inspiration to us to become what we desire to become. Ray, I wish in a burst of inspirational euphoria, I could deliver a rendition of “Georgia on my Mind” in gratitude to you but my hoarse voice has got the best of me. I hope it’s some compensation to you though, that you will always be on my mind.

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