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25 July 2010

Ray Charles Interviewed Over Satellite On The Australian Today Show (2002)

In February 2002 Ray Charles was a guest on the Australian Channel 9 morning tv program Today Show (ID 20020211001 and 20020212012; sources here and here). The interview, done over sattelite, was split and aired over 2 days, the 11th and the 12th.

Part 1 (11 May):
Host/interviewer (IV): Well, today a real treat as we are joined via satellite from Los Angeles by one of the music world's true greats. He's won 12 Grammys and countless other awards. He had his first hit 44 years ago. And he's still going strong. In fact he's about to embark on his 135th overseas tour which will see him play at the Wyndham Estate in the Hunter Valley on Saturday. I'm talking about Ray Charles and it is a great pleasure to thank you for joining, us sir. How are you doing?
R.C.: I'm doing quite well. and thank you very much. I love that. What part of it did you love the most? You know when you give all those nice little accolades, you know, about the Grammys and about my tours overseas, I think that's really nice. I'm surprised you knew all of that.
IV: It is an incredible track record that you've had and an amazing career. At 70-something years of age most people have opted for a lazy and happy retirement. What is it that keeps you going, sir?
R.C.: Well, you know, actually you say 70-something. It's actually 71 years, and what keeps me going is the music. I mean, you know, this music is my life just like breathing, you know what I mean? You've got to breathe, I have to play music. You know, it's my everything. It's number one in my life. So you know, it's something I can't retire from. When I stop, it will be because the good Lord has told me my numbers [are] up.
IV: Do you remember when you started singing and playing the piano? Can you remember what it was that hooked you in in the first place?
R.C.: Well it was just something when I was three years old, which is as far back as I can remember, I just loved music and I was always trying to sing - even when I was that age. If I heard something I was always trying to sing. And of course this elderly gentleman who was [...] living next door, [...] he was a boogie woogie pianist, and whenever I would hear him start to play that piano, I don't care what I was doing - if I was playing with some other youngsters or something - I would immediately stop and go and sit and listen to him play that piano. So you know, music is just a part of me. So I'm going to always do it.
IV: You were blind by the age of seven. Those of us with eyesight can't imagine what you must have gone through and what that must feel like. Was music somehow therapy to help you deal with that trauma do you think?
R.C.: Oh that's a great question, sir. I'm not so sure because the reason - I don't think that's necessarily so because I was - I loved music as I say from the time I was three years old, so I think going blind or even if I didn't go blind I don't think it would have had anything to do with it. Music was just - was in me... I was just - I mean, if there's such a word as destined..., I guess it was just something that was totally within my whole body, my whole soul, my whole heart, everything. So I don't think blindness really had anything to do with it. I was going to play music regardless.
[Other arms reach out to me / Other eyes smile tenderly...].
IV: You've had so many great songs over the years. Songs like... Georgia, I guess, is the classic example which, I guess, is your signature tune. Do you ever get sick of playing the song or of having people screaming out for it every time you walk anywhere near a piano?
R.C.: What's great about what I do is I don't have to sing Georgia the same way every night. I can sing it whatever way I feel. That's the difference between when you're doing modern music as opposed to, say, classical music, where you've got to play exactly what's on the paper the way that it is. You can't deviate. But when you're playing jazz or you're playing, you know, what they call popular music, you can, you know, you can sing the song the way you feel it that night. And since we don't feel the same way every day that means each night I sing it, but it's always different.
IV: The great Ray Charles and Let The Good Times Roll.
[Yeah everybody Lets have some fun / You only live the once and when you're dead you're done / So let the good times roll / I say let the good times roll / Yeah you gotta let the good times roll].
IV: So there you go - the great Ray Charles who is performing at the Myer Music Bowl on Friday the 22nd, with special guest Renée Geyer and the Australian Pops Orchestra, and Saturday 23 at the Wyndham Estate Winery in the Hunter Valley. And tomorrow morning the rest of that exclusive interview.

Part II (12 May):
[Introduced by INXS video clip; cf. this.]
IV: Ladies and gentleman, please welcome, this is going to be great, INXS and special guest, Ray Charles - folks!
[Tears, tears, tears / falling from my eyes / you have to be in love / to know the reason why].
R.C.: I think for myself just to try to make the best music you can make. Forget about, you know - I don't try to say, Well, is this going to be like Georgia, or is this going to be like I Can't Stop Loving You, or is this going to be like What I Say*, or is this going to be like Born To Lose? I don't do that because that's not what it's about. What I want to do is whatever I'm doing, I want to make that the best I can make it.
[You think it's easy / 'cause you don't know the feeling / Make it up, make it up / Lock it in your door / I have a fever like a man has a passion / If you have the time I'll show you how to turn it on].
R.C.: So, when I pick a song, it's something that I genuinely love myself, and I'm going to put my total self into it. When you're not playing music, I gather you play a pretty good game of chess? Is that right? You heard about me, huh? Yeah. I must say I love chess, and the reason I love it is because, you know, it's a little different from when you're playing with cards. If you don't get the right card, I don't care how good you are, chances are you're going to lose. But with chess everybody starts with exactly the same identical thing. So it's just a case of you out-thinking me or I'm out-thinking you, or one of us make a mistake. I love that.
IV: You learned to play music by reading Braille. And I gather that the Ray Charles Foundation is your way of giving back to other people who have some special needs. Tell me about the work of the foundation, sir?
R.C.: What my foundation does, we deal with hearing. The reason for that, a lot of people they would think I would deal with blindness, but I deal with hearing because I realised how important it is, especially to me, because, I mean my hearing is the last resort for me. I cannot be Helen Keller. And we take these kids and we put some cochlear implants into their ear and next thing, you know, they can hear. When you start out at, say, three years old and he couldn't hear nothing in his life and by the time he's five, he's talking - you don't know how proud that makes me feel.
[Although your arms are holding me tight / The sadness you feel girl don't seem right].
IV: Ray Charles, you are a legend and an inspiration. Thank you for your time this morning, sir. We wish you safe travel to Australia and look forward to see you playing at the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne. I think the last time you were in Melbourne you worked at Crown. John Farnham got up. You remember that? R.C.: Yes, sir, he sure did. Got up and said, Do a little singing right along with me. It was a great night. We look forward to the Myer Music Bowl, and, of course, the Wyndham Estate in the Hunter Valley.
IV: Ray Charles, thank you very much, sir.
R.C.: Thank you, my friend, and I hope to see you when we get there.

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