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01 August 2010

Ray Charles In The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon (1975, 1978, 1988, 1990, 1998)

 Stills of Lewis, Charles, Sammy
Davis Jr., Doc Severinson, Ed
McMahon, and David Hartman
from their Telethon appearances. 
Jerry Lewis is best-known for his slapstick humor, and for his charity fund-raising telethons and his position as national chairman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).
The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon, starring Jerry Lewis and "his kids", is a timeworn tradition. From the first shows into the current century, the biggest stars of Broadway, Hollywood and Las Vegas appeared with Jerry on this fundraising show. They helped raise an estimated $2 billion for "Jerry's Kids".

Ray Charles participated in 1975, 1978, 1988, 1990, and 1998.

Since 1964 Jerry Lewis has concluded the Telethon with You'll Never Walk Alone (Lewis said at the end of the 2007 Telethon that the song was suggested to him in 1964 by a disabled child). Did Ray ever play his version during this show?

Ray's performance in 1975 hasn't surfaced yet.
An eye witness remembered: "In 1974 or 1975, I came down with an ear infection over the Labor Day weekend. Being in discomfort, I was unable to sleep. Since this was the era before 24-hour per day Superstations, the only thing on in the wee hours of the morning in Columbia, South Carolina was the Jerry Lewis/MDA telethon.
I clearly recall Mr. Lewis, bowtie untied, ruffled shirt partly unbuttoned, sweating profusely, starting to talk about his motivation to do the telethon. It's about 4 or 5 in the morning. In hindsight and after hearing revelations concerning Mr. Lewis' prescription drug addiction during that era, I have always wondered how chemically enhanced the moment was.
My recollection is that he says something like, 'They ask me why I do it. Well, maybe I'll say someday. However, they're going to have to come across with the big bucks before I tell this story. Then maybe I'll say.' That struck me as a peculiar statement for the host of a charity telethon. [...]."

In 1978 Ray and Jerry performed a duet on What'd I Say and Georgia On My Mind with MDA Telethon initiator and host Jerry Lewis. The show aired live, in (probably early September of) 1978.

In the same show Ray also solo'ed on this medley of Georgia On My Mind + I Got A Woman + You Don't Know Me + Hit The Road Jack:

In this entertaining blog article bass player Darren Solomon took some quotes from his 1988 tour diary to describe his and Ray Charles' performance at the MDA show, on September 5 of that year. Ray, his rhythm section (also with Kenny Carr) and the Telethon houseband's horn players screwed up Some Enchanted Evening.

'88 TV MDA - Some Enchanted Evening + There'll Be Some Changes Made:

Ray also performed in 1990. The clip below turned up on a Russian website. Also see this.
'90 TV MDA - America The Beautiful:

Ray participated again in the 33rd Annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, a 21.5 hour broadcast from Hollywood on 6 and 7 September 1998. According to a spokes man it was "seen by an estimated 75 million people on 200 television stations in the United States and Canada" and "viewed on the Internet in 60 countries including Honduras, Iceland, Kuwait and the Czech Republic". The program raised $51.57 million. Source here.

'98 TV MDA - The Good Life (starts at 32:30):

The same performance, but starting with an akward embrace, and followed by Georgia:

The MDA maintains a channel on Youtube.

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