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18 March 2010

Kennedy Center's Honors Tribute to Ray Charles (1986)

Ray Charles received The Kennedy Center Honors for exemplary lifetime achievement in the performing arts in 1986 from President Ronald Reagan. According to one of my sources, Stevie Wonder performed I Just Called To Say I Love You in tribute to Charles, while 50 children from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind did America The Beautiful. The Columbus Times of 30 December 1986 reported that the children sang You Light Up My Life and that Stevie Wonder played America The Beautiful on his harmonica.
A 'complete 2-hour video' of the event is offered on the web, but I'm not sure if Ray's tribute is really part of this (the Columbus Times wrote: "Sorry you will not eye or ear these side events on the tube rebroadcast...").

This was also the only time - as far as I know - that Ray Charles was caught singing the national anthem . Watch a fragment of it here (don't miss Lucy holding Ray's hand).

There's also a video containing parts of that 1986 event (including a biographic documentary), and an October 2003 performance by Ellis Hall - at the request of the ailing Ray Charles, who had recently been co-producing an Ellis album on Crossover Records. Watch it here (requires RealPlayer). And don't miss this photo. Some more fragments of the same '86 event, Ellis' 2003 act, and more promo stuff from Ellis are here (again with a confusing timeline;-):



The 1986 program was announced as "An evening of tribute and entertainment", first from the White House, then the Kennedy Center. It took place on December 7, 1986.
Below is the - seemingly complete - footage of the tribute to Lucille Ball. In Part 1 Walter Cronkite introduces the honorees and shows a recap of their evening at the White House. Ray, sitting right next to Lucy, is on camera a lot in the other parts as well. Reagan's speech can be watched here; national anthem here.

Part 1 of tribute show for Lucille Ball:
Part 2:
Part 3:

For a clip of the honorees singing the national anthem, see thisThe same sequence was also filmed by 
NBC.

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