Mediagraphy - Discography - Trackography - Videography - Gigography - Biography - Chronology

19 November 2014

America The Beautiful

Album: A Message From The People, ABC/Tangerine 755, April 1972.
Single (B): ABC 11329, June 1972, b/w Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma.
Single (A): Crossover/Atlantic 985, February 1976 (the year of the Bicentennial): re-release with a newly taped voice track, re-using the old (ABC 11329) instruments mix.
DCC DZS45-002, CD single, 1987.
In 1987, to further promote the already rapidly increasing popularity of the CD format, DCC (Dunhill Compact Classics) began producing 3" CD singles to mimic classic 45s. One of these was Ray's America The Beautiful.
There may have been one or two video releases (possibly in 1991 and 2002), but I haven't been able yet to verify this.
In 2005 the posthumous album Genius And Friends also contained an ugly duet with Alicia Keys.

And then, of course, there's Little Ray (2002), 18 inches tall, using 4 AA batteries (included), and playing What'd I Say and America The Beautiful.

However, when Ray decided to record the tune, he removed some verses, and emphasized those that spoke about the beauty of the country and the bravery of the soldiers. "Then I put a little country church backbeat on it and turned it my way".

The Message album was recorded at RPM International in Los Angeles in 1972. This song was arranged by Quincy Jones.

With uncredited strings, choir, organ and woodwinds. Don Peake remembers playing his 1931 Gibson L5 acoustic, but Carol Kaye*, who played bass, doesn't recall ever playing together with Peake; for a listing of the other identified session musicians follow the link to the album.
In one of the versions that he performed at the Dick Cavett Show (i.c. the second clip from that program, below), he calls out for "John" to be ready - i.e. probably John Henderson, who played in the Orchestra at that time.

On the first single release it was just a B-side, but from the 1980s onwards America The Beautiful became one Ray's signature songs. And in the wake of 9/11 it even seemed to become an alternative national anthem.

Read this excellent article.

* Carol Kaye said: “There’s certain dates you play and you know they're important. With America The Beautiful, it was iconic. First of all, there’s the song itself. But the marriage of the song with the singer is what counts, and Ray Charles singing America The Beautiful, well, you can’t improve on that.
When we cut this, I kept thinking of Ray’s own struggles with the country. He'd been through so much, from being a blind black kid and all that that entails, to playing the clubs in the South and being booed and having to stay in black-only hotels, to fighting for integration and human rights…I felt like we were telling his own story, not just that of the country.
As a bass player, I knew I had to keep it simple. This wasn’t a song where I was supposed to call attention to the part or move the music. It was all about Ray. All I had to do was find the right spaces and let him shine. There were a couple of fills I did. I think of them as background singers going, 'Amen!' That’s the only embellishment you need.”

The Dick Cavett Show, 1972 (2x):

Republican Party Convention, with Ronald Reagan, 1984:

Wrestlemania, 1986:

50 Years show, 1991:

Miami Lighthouse, 1999:

World Series, 2001:

'70 TV Glen
'72 TV Frost
'72 TV Cosby
'72 TV Cavett - 2x  Released
'75 TV Midnight NM
'76 TV MusicHall NM
'76 TV Spirit
'76 TV Douglas
'77 LC Gladys - Released
'80 TV SugarRay
'81 LC Edmonton - Released
'83 TV CMA
'83 TV Man
'84 TV King
'80 TV LakePlacid
'84 DM Reagan
'85 TV Statue
'85c FI MyCountry
'85 LC NewHaven
'86 TV Wrestlemania
'86 TV Disney
'88 LC Ballet - 2x - Stream available
'89 LC Ballet - 2x
'90 TV MDA
'91 LC McCallum - Released
'91 LC 50 Years
'92 TV Mall
'93 TV Clinton
'96 LC Atlantic City
'97 LC Philly
'98 DM Stamp
'98 LC Charlotte NM
'99 LC Tulsa NM
'99 LC Miami - Released
00 TV Washington
01 TV Bowl
01 LC Waterloo
01 DM Prayer NM
01 TV Worldseries
02 TV Macy NM
02 TV Ice
02 LC Gospel - Released
03 TV Constitution

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