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12 May 2010

Ray Charles In Celebration Of Life (1984)

Clipping from Jet, 30 January 1984.

Ray Charles was one of many star performers at Celebration Of Life at the Kennedy Center in Washington. The goal was to raise funds for the King Center in Atlanta.
With Patrick Duffy, Patti LaBelle, Jeffrey Osborne, Tremaine Hawkins, Irene Cara, Willie Stargell, Emmanuel Lewis, Phyllis Hyman, Louis Gosset, Cecily Tyson, LaVar Burton, Joan Baez, Johnny Brown, Dick Gregory, Debbie Allan, Mary Travers, Charley Pride, and Stevie Wonder. A two-hour television special was taped for syndication on 13 January 1984, to be aired on Dr. King's birthday, the 15th. Narrated by Ossie Davis. Produced by Cindy Walker (Televancer). Tickets $100, 250, 2,500. Source here.

Wolfgang's Concert Vault offers the full show in audio. Ray, after an introduction, first performed Oh, What A Beautiful Morning, then came back two times, for Abraham, Martin And John, and America The Beautiful.

The NBC archive shows a clip of a Coretta King interview from the Today Show of 12 January 1984. It also contains a brief clip from the Celebration Of Life show, with Ray Charles performing Abraham, Martin And John.

Here is an incomplete copy of the show, a.o. missing the latter tune:

The NPR Archive holds a radio portrait (with interview) that was used to promote the show at the Kennedy Center. It was probably first aired on January 6, 198[3]. Essential quotes:
  • "I think what made me become so hung up with Dr. King was the fact that he was saying, look, here is a chance not only for our country but the world to see what injustice can do to people."
  • "I don’t know what the devil a political activist really is, actually. If something is going on that really affects you to the point wherein you feel that here's an opportunity for you to do something about it, if that makes you a political activist, then I guess I am."
  • "If I go out into a march, first of all, I can't see, number one. So somebody throws something at me, I can't even duck, you know, in time. That's number one. Number two, I know that my temperament, as much as I would like and as much as I love and appreciate what Dr. King stood for, I know that my temperament just couldn't handle it. You know, when you can't handle something, you can’t handle it. And I’m not the kind of a person that can let somebody strike me and don’t strike 'em back, you see? And you're not supposed to do that, you're supposed to, you know, to accept that and I know I couldn't do that, so why get involved in something and make Dr. King look bad because of me? That don't make sense. So I figure, why don't you do something in a quiet way, I don't need to be in the newspapers and said, well, Ray Charles contributed this or Ray Charles gave that. I didn't want that."
  • "I was just someone who loved Dr. King, let me explain it that way. And when I met him [in Birmingham, in 1963], as far as I was concerned, he was like an earthly god to me. Everything was an honor, so he didn't sit down and tell me how great I was and thank God he didn't 'cause that was not what I wanted to hear in the first place. So, no, he just spoke to me and as I said he told me how pleased and satisfied that he was that we were there. And to me that said everything."
  • "I think what made me become so hung up with Dr. King was the fact that he was saying, look, here is a chance not only for our country but the world to see what injustice can do to people. And it is also a chance if I and if the people, if we can get together and do this, it will also show America and the world that we can change this injustice and we don't have to go out and get a bunch of nuclear bombs and half kill each other. Or totally kill each other."

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