The Hip-Hop Nation is still mourning in the aftermath of soul icon Ray Charles’ death. Funny thing is, people may not know that they are mourning – the loss is just that widespread. There is a tremendous lingering legacy in the absence of Brother Ray. And, for some reason, Hip-Hop didn’t directly embrace his work via extensive sampling like say James Brown, George Clinton or Roy Ayers. Maybe its because he owned his master recordings, maybe it was a sense of respect, or maybe Ray was simply untouchable. Whatever the reason, we still loved him, whether it was his moving rendition of “Georgia” or his highly touted Pepsi commercials (“You got the right one, ba-bay –UN-HUH!). He was a class act and he never stopped smiling (at least when we watched).
Below are a just a few of the comments that we received from those who enjoyed, were inspired or just loved the legacy of Ray Charles.
Aretha Franklin, Soul Singer
I was really saddened to hear he was so ill. I had no idea that he was as ill as he was until quite late. Of course, a great soul has gone on. He was a fabulous man, full of humor and wit. A giant of an artist, and of course, he introduced the world to secular soul singing. Undoubtedly, the music world will miss his voice. He’s the voice of a lifetime.
Neil Portnow, RIAA President
"The world is a quieter place today as we mourn the passing of 12-time GRAMMY-winner Ray Charles. A member of the Recording Academy for more than 45 years, Mr. Charles was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987 and this past February, we bestowed upon him the prestigious President’s Merit Award. With a mix of blues, gospel, jazz and soul, Mr. Charles was the preeminent American musician – with a heart as grand as his talents. The Academy has lost a dear friend and the world has lost a musical legend."
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
“I am saddened to hear of the death of my friend, Ray Charles. He was a true legend…an American Treasure. His music is timeless; his contributions to the music industry…unequalled; and his influence, unparalleled. His caring and humility spoke volumes. He paved the way for so many of us, and I will forever remember him in my heart.”
Charlie Braxton, journalist:
Ray Charles is easily one of the greatest American recording artists to ever set foot in a recording studio. Ray took chords from traditional gospel tunes and married secular themes to them, much to the chagrin of gospel music fans. This formula is best illustrated by the his smash hit "Baby What I Say. His unique blend of blues and gospel laid the foundation for modern soul music. Without him there would be no Musiq Soulchilds, no Kelly Prices, no soul to put neo in front of. The hip-hop generation owes this great artist a huge musical debt.
DJ Vlad, Spin Doctor (DJ):
My main memory of Ray Charles was seeing him decked out in the ill suit with the fly honey’s singing ‘you got the right one bay-bay’ in those Pepsi commercials. Homeboy was pretty old back then, but you could tell he was still a player.
Dasun Allah DX21, Hip-Hop Journalist & Radio Personality:
Ray Charles is a Grandmaster. Many seem to think our musical traditions emerged from a vacuum, without any context. Our generation deals with what has been dubbed "neo-soul" but it was Ray Charles whose scientific melding of blues, gospel and R&B gave birth to what is called soul to begin with. Our generation must know that it stands on the shoulders of those who have come before. For instance, look at the direct influence he had on Stevie Wonder who in turn has influenced countless singers within the Hip-hop generation, and that was just one individual. This man created entire genres! He was accomplished in so many genres and he did it his way. Even Frank Sinatra hailed him as the genius.
Paine, AllHipHop.com Features Editor
Ray Charles was somebody I grew up admiring. Not because of his early and classic catalog…but because of my favorite childhood film, the Blues Brothers. Ray’s cameo and performance spoke to me as did others by James Brown, Cab Calloway, and John Lee Hooker. Without a doubt, Ray’s a big part of Hip-Hop. He isn’t somebody you’re likely to hear scratched on a record. But as far as soul…Ray’s got Triple Five Soul and without Ray, you can forget about Jimmy Castor Bunch and Debarge.
Patti LaBelle, Singer
When I heard that he, Ray Charles passed, I dropped and started crying. It is a big loss to America. Although I knew him as a friend, he was nice to everyone and even though he was blind, he saw people in his own special way. We’ve lost a great angel.
Quincy Jones, Producer, Ray Charles protégé
I truly have no words to express the deep sadness that I have today. Ray Charles was my oldest friend, my brother in every sense of the word, and bigger then life. We first met when I was 14-years-old and he was 16 in Seattle and we had the blessing of God to realize all those boyhood dreams together. As a musician, Ray Charles was unmatched. A musical genius that made every song he performed his own. There will never be another musician who did as much to break down the perceived walls of musical genres as much as Ray Charles did. Ray used to always say that if he had a dime, he would give me a nickel. Well, I would give that nickel back to have him still here with us but I know that heaven has become a better place with him in it. Like the loss of my brother in 1998, this is absolutely devastating.
Karu F. Daniels, Entertainment Journalist/The RU Report:
"Ray Charles was and will remain an eternal force to be reckoned with throughout the entertainment history. It’s such a sad loss for the music world and he will be dearly missed. Many of us from the hip-hop generation first really heard his voice during that memorable episode of The Cosby Show where the family celebrated the anniversary of the grandparents as they lip-synched his black radio classic "Tonight’s The Night." He was also featured on "We Are The World," along with dozens other music luminaries like Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and Lionel Ritchie. I remember him rocking back and forth on the piano towards the end of the music video, with the trademark gravely voice. For me, these are memorable moments of childhood nostalgia that are embedded in the tapestry of my early development and my love for true music. And those who actually didn’t grow up listening to their parent’s soul records, like me, may have also caught wind of his musical mastery as the spokesperson for Diet Pepsi, flanked by the beautiful ladies in the 1990s. I know that Jamie Foxx recently wrapped a biopic of him that is being touted as Oscar caliber. I cannot wait to see it. It will definitely put his career into perspective to the younger generation of music lovers who think it begins and ends with hip hop. Ray Charles embodied music."
Conscious, Emcee/Spoken Word Poet:
Ray Charles other then being a great musician and a very pleasant person in general, he had a work ethic that was ridiculous. He wouldn’t miss any events he was involved with. Ray Charles also held on to something that many artists never did and never will. His master recordings. He simply asked for them. Ha ha.
Steve Wonder, Blind Musical Genius
“I think that “Georgia” would not have been the state song for Georgia if he didn’t sing it the way he did. [I was like,] “He’s blind? He was an influence. My heart aches at the loss of Ray Charles,”
Bro. Steve Harris, Television Producer/Radio Host:
Ray Charles, what can we say, but everything, his class, savvy, and integrity is second to none. He is the model musician, singer, and human for the music industry, An icon in his own time and for years to come. When you hear his name you would smile, when you hear his music, a spark of light would be in your heart, when you meet him a touch of history connects with you, and no matter where you are or where you go the name Ray Charles will live for ever. Now we can name buildings, school, and events after him for this is someone who has touched us all. Now the entire country can mourn the passing of a TRUE American Legend, A True Hero, one who made music for us all, now is the time where the African American Community around the world can mourn our hero, The Late Great Ray Charles…