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November 9, 2004 > Ray


Rated Pg-13 for depiction of drug addiction, sexuality and some thematic elements

by Susana Nuñez

The long awaited film based on the life of Ray Charles has finally hit the big screen with the release of Ray. Starring the talented Jamie Foxx, who recently branched out of the comedy genre, the film exposes Charles's life behind his public persona. His struggle with drug addiction and keeping his family together played a vital role in his music; the film gives him the chance to present his side of the story.

Born in a poor town in Georgia, Charles (Jamie Foxx) gradually loses his vision at the age of seven, shortly after witnessing the death of his brother. Despite the tragedies, his fiercely independent mother tells him to never feel sorry for himself or to be handicapped. He is to make his way in the world as an independent man through his gift of music. In a time when racism was at an all-time high in the South and segregation was the way of life, he was a pioneer for black artists looking to make it in the music industry. Charles once stated, "I knew being blind was suddenly an aid. I never learned to stop at the skin. If I looked at a man or a woman, I wanted to see inside. Being distracted by shading or coloring is stupid. It gets in the way. It's something I just can't see."

The Genius, as he was nicknamed, incorporated country, jazz, and gospel, which was unheard of at the time. In his early beginnings, his music was even called blasphemous, yet Charles had faith in his innovative sound. Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records (played by Curtis Armstrong in the film) was the man who saw something special in Charles and helped him develop his own sound. The legendary Atlantic Records played a major role in developing and exposing Rhythm and Blues music to the world, as well as recording talented black artists who would otherwise never received such a chance. Although many of the artists Ertegun recorded remain obscure today, Ray Charles was one of the few who went on to become a worldwide star. His timeless hits earned him 12 Grammys and some of his most well-known classics include "Hit the Road Jack," "What'd I Say," and "Georgia on My Mind."

Ray Charles worked along with the producers and actors to give audiences an accurate film, without the sugarcoating other artists would have opted to use. Unfortunately, Ray Charles's life ended on June 10, 2004 at 73 years of age, but his memory and musical legacy retains the love and support of his family and fans across the globe. A tribute to one of the country's most beloved performers, Ray celebrates the life and music of the man behind the curtain of fame.

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