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26 July 2010

Ray Charles Receives National Medal Of The Arts From Bill Clinton (1993)

On 7 October 1993 Bill Clinton honored the arts community in a White House ceremony recognizing eighteen distinguished Americans for their contributions to the arts and humanities.

Reuters Television keeps a 13m12s tape (ID Ref: 604300544; source here), showing the president "[s]haring a platform on the South Lawn with singer Ray Charles, bandleader Cab Calloway and playwright Arthur Miller". Other honorees were Billy Wilder; William Styron; Paul Folklorist; Bess Lomax Hawes; Stanley Kunitz; Walter and Leonore Annenberg; and Robert Rauschenberg. After honoring Cab Calloway, Clinton walked back to podium and presented Ray with the medal. After Charles sat  down, Clinton said:
Cab Caloway, Ray Charles,
Bess Lomax Hawes.
"Literally for decades Ray Charles has been one of America's favourite singers. From his roots in Georgia he became one of the first great truly American singers, one of the first to combine the dynamic energy of gospel music with rhythm and blues. His songs are indelibly etched in the hearts of millions of Americans. I can tell you that it's a particular honor for me to give him this award today because I suppose no singer every had a bigger impact on my musical life than Ray Charles. I still remember over there in Constitution Hall a concert I attended on June 24th, 1967. I was notable for being one of the few members of my race in the audience. Ray Charles electrified that crowd so much that that night I literally could not go to sleep until 5 o'clock in the morning; I went out and ran three miles to get the energy out. And I still remember to this day the date of the concert. That is testament to the enduring impact of this phenomenal American Original."

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