Mentored Ray Charles?
late Ray Charles had the distinction of being both a
national treasure and an international phenomenon. Music
was Ray Charles' single driving force, and it catapulted
a poor, black, blind, orphaned teenager from there to
here. Rhythm & blues (or "race music"
as it had been called) became universally respectable
through his efforts. Jazz found a mainstream audience
it had never previously enjoyed. And country & western
music began to chart an unexpected course to general
acceptance, then worldwide popularity. Along the way
Ray Charles was instrumental in the invention of rock
Charles talks about Quincy Jones:
so hard to describe Quincy, because you know, we're
so close. He was just an energetic young kid and he
really loved music. He wanted to learn how to write,
and of course, I knew how to write, and that drew us
together--because I could help him out and show him
some things about how to compose.
would work at night from 1:00 to 5:00 in the morning,
get home at 6:00 a.m., and Quincy would wake me up at
9:00 a.m. and say, "Hey man, show me how to write
said, "Man, do you know what time it is?"
said, "I don't care man."
mean, I loved him so much I'd get up out of bed--sleep
just didn't matter anymore because it was him. You could
tell that he wanted to learn, he wanted to know. And
because I was able to show him some things, that made
me happy, that's what stirred my heart. I could help
love Quincy very much. If I got a dime, he got a nickel,
I mean, that's just the way it is.
Charles talks about his mentor:
Pittman, he was a cat. I mean, if it hadn't been for
him, I don't think I'd be a musician today. We lived
next door to him. He had a little café, a general
store, and he had a piano in there. Every afternoon
around 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., he'd start to practice.
I was 3 years old and--I don't know why I loved him,
I can't explain that--but any time he'd start to practicing
and playing that boogie woogie--I loved that boogie
woogie sound--I would stop playing as a child, I didn't
care who was out there in the yard, my buddies, or whoever,
I would leave them, and go inside and sit by him and
listen to him play.
time to time, I'd start hittin' the keys with my whole
fists and finally he would say to me, "Look kid,
you don't hit the keys with your whole fist like this
(demonstrates), if you like music so much," and
he knew how much I liked music because I'd stop everything
I was doing and listen to him.
he started to teach me how to play little melodies with
one finger. And, of course, I realize today that he
could've said, "Kid, get away from me, can't you
see I'm practicing?"
he didn't. He took the time. Somehow he knew in his
heart, this kid loves music so much, I'm going to do
whatever I can to help him learn how to play.
Charles talks about his mom:
always remember my mom. She was not what you'd call
a well-educated woman. She only went to about the 4th
or 5th grade because she had to work in the corn fields
and the cotton fields, but she was a great psychologist--there's
no other way to explain it. She knew things that I felt
that no one else seemed to realize about me.
her child, she wanted me to be as normal, as regular
as any other child. Which means she made me do everything
that other kids do. I had to wash clothes, I had to
learn how to do this, I had to clean the house, the
things that other kids do. I had to cut wood with an
always remember my mom was crying one day in church
because they were saying in church how it was a shame
how she was treating me, this blind kid she got out
there cutting wood, a chip could fly up and hit him.
And I always remember that in her tears she said, "It's
true he's blind, and it's true a chip could wind up
hitting him--but I can see, and a chip could hit me,
then both of us started crying together.
always taught me that even people who love you--they're
not going to have time to deal with you as much as you
want them to. So you got to learn to do things for yourself.
You got to find a way. You may not be able to do it
like a sighted person, but there are two ways to do
everything. You just got to find the right one that