"I am my own engineer."
"I do me."
"When you do yourself, you gotta like what you do."
"I don't analyze myself. I just do what I do."
"I told myself, you gotta do it, because don’t nobody know your name."
"I'm happiest doing what I'm doing now, and I do this best."
"If you love what you're doing, you will never be bad. I will never be bad. I may not be as good as I was last night, but I will never be bad."
"I'm an entertainer because I think the public enjoy what I do. Then I think I'm an artist because I know what I'm doing. And I think that for what I do, I am very good at it."
"Don't get no hang-ups in trying to outdo yourself."
"I have to be good to me. I must please me, and I'm a hard sonofabitch to please."
"Let me make my own mistakes, let me produce my own small triumphs."
"What I have to live up to is being myself."
"[Asked to describe himself in three words:] Going to work."
"My attitude was, Well, I probably may loose a few fans, but if I work it just right, I think I’ll gain more fans than I loose."
"I can't be dated, because I'm a musician."
"You cannot have excellence unless you think excellence. The state of excellence is in the mind, the desire, the will."
"I want to say this to you so if you can dramatize or use kind of exclamation points - I never coast on nothin'. Before I coast, I quit. Because remember this one thing, man. I owe somethin' to Ray first. It's to me. I ain't ever gonna lie to Ray. I can't bull me."
"You settle. Ninety percent ain't as good as a hundred, but it'll usually do just fine."
"I figure you do what you can, while you can, on this earth, because you can bet your ass you're gonna leave here. Ain't no doubt about that."
"You better live every day like your last because one day you're going to be right."
"My big goal is to get up and do what I did yesterday but maybe a little better."
"I must always be myself; and, by the way, it's the easiest thing in the world for me to do."
"I've always been the kind of person who, if there's anything that can kill me, I want to know something about it."
"This is all that I do, sing and play music, and I'll be doing it until the good Lord says, You've been a good horse. Now its time to put you out to pasture. That's when I'll retire."
"If you want to do it, do it."
"I just live. I don't tell people how to live, unless someone asks me for my opinion. I don't go preaching nothing to nobody."
"The greatest thing in the world is to know how you want to live, and live that way."
"I figure I had nothing to do with coming here, and I ain't gonna have nothing to do with leaving... While I'm here, I just want to make every day count, minimize my troubles, and... be what I am."
"The fact of the matter is, you don't give up what's natural. Anything I've fantasized about, I've done."
"Everything I can look at as negative, I learned something from it. I got something out of it. It helped me to do other things better."
"I think that if you are really good, or if you really do have talent, it may not hurt you to suffer, but on the other hand I don't want to say that it's absolutely necessary to suffer."
"When I go out on stage, I give them all of me. Not part of me. I give them everything I’ve got. I give it to them."
"You have to work at maintaining a musical standard. It's like a house, you've got to be constantly dusting and doing something to it every day, otherwise it'll go down."
"I think that, if you are really good, or if you really do have talent, it may not hurt you to suffer, but on the other hand I don't want to say that it's absolutely necessary to suffer."
"I really feel that if you're gonna be good, you gotta practice. I've never met anybody that was genuinely good that didn't practice. Practice whatever the hell you do."
"The name of the game, if you're a singer or a drummer or a pianist, the main thing is to practice. Never forget to practice. As long as you have your health and strength and your mind is active, you go ahead and do what you do until the day you're rung up by the man upstairs. While you're here, you do what you can."
"I wear out my clothes from the inside."
"If a cat wrongs me, and if I haven’t had time to free myself from the situation, then the guy is as good as dead as far as I am concerned. I won’t be glad, I won’t be sad, it won’t mean nothing to me… When I cancel a person, that's it."
"When something turns bad for me, I tend to get angry. And that’s a state I should always avoid. If a cat wrongs me, and I haven’t had time to free myself from the situation, then the guy as as good as dead as far as I’m concerned. "
"You could tell me that a certain cat who did me wrong has been run over by a truck. I won't be glad, I won’t be sad. It won’t mean nothing to me. When I cancel a person, that's it. Like a canceled check. They become grains of sand; I just don’t pay them any mind."
"A few cats who have worked for me have done some raunchy shit. I’ve canned them. Once my mind’s made up, that’s it. So I always try to dance around those nasty confrontations. If you wash yourself in anger, you never have clean hands."
"I've always thought that people want you to be one of two things: they either want you to be a clone - meaning just like them - or they want you to be their footstool, so they can control you and tell you what to do."
"I don't think the day will ever come when I think I'm at my peak. First of all, the game is not that way. Once you're at the status where life is livable for you, what you try for thereafter is to stay there."
"My biggest motivation is making the best use of the time I have in life. You can't relive a moment. You can't redo it, patch it up. It's gone forever."
"I dont know if I'm totally against anything. I like to think that a human being has a right to do whatever fits him."
"The every day people who get up and go to work, feed their kids and try to do the right thing: they're my real heroes; they're the people who come and see my shows, spend their hard earned money and I appreciate their loyalty and support."
"I like ordinary people. I don't like nobody with something up their ass."
"Talking is the best way we can all get together, but you gotta go out and be with the people."
"I believe genius is a higher category. And I don't believe that Ray Charles is even near it."
"Styles may change, but you don't have to worry about the styles if you're elegant all the time."
"I'm not blind; I just cannot see."
"I look at blindness like an inconvenience. I can do 98 percent of everything I want to do in my life."
"I don't feel sorry for people who can't see -- I see more than most people -- I feel sorry for people who can't hear."
"I might not can see it; but I damn sho' can feel it."
"Don't feel sorry for me because I can't see those pretty girls. I can do more with my hands than you can with your eyes. "
"I would have been a musician anyway. If I can see, fine, if I can't see, fine."
"My eyes are my handicap, but my ears are my opportunity."
"Vision is something that you have in your mind."
"Sighted people sometimes forget that blind people have a mind. "
"Hearing is the key to my life. I'd rather have given up my sight than my hearing."
"What is left for me to see? I was blinded when I was 6. I know what the moon and stars and other things look like. There's nothing earth-shattering left to see."
"Seeing or not seeing doesn't have anything to do with my music."
"Learning to read music in Braille and play by ear helped me develop a damn good memory."
"I had a pretty normal childhood, I guess. Except I was considered sort of an oddball because I was the only child in the whole city who was blind."
"I used to walk in New York by myself. When I had to cross a street, I'd get with all these people going the same way, and away we'd go. I figured a car wouldn't hit all those people."
"Sometimes, I fool around with my radio or television set, if either one goes bad. I guess I'll probably shock myself to death one day. That's why I don't recommend that other blind people mess with electricity or motors and things."
"If I could see for a day I would probably just stay where the hell I am and just smoke it over."
"On independence: No dog, no cane, no guitar."
"On handing over a braille edition of Playboy for a present: Tell him, I only feel it for the articles."
"To me everybody's dressed well."
"This is a girl's bike, man. Why would I be riding a girl's bike? You didn't think I was gonna notice that, right? You guys are trying to sucker a blind man!"
"I can not give autographs, but just my music."
"I've been shaving in the dark all my life."
"I don't want to be seen as a product. That's why I change musical style so much."
"When you can make people happy along with yourself and still get paid for it, that's the ultimate utopia."
"An artist, if he's smart, will set himself up in some other ways besides music. You know, while he can."
"It's all a matter of zeros - whether you're talking about 10 bucks or 100,000. You ain't going to last long if your outlay is greater than your intake. Since I'm in business to make an honest dollar - because I'm too chicken to steal - I figure I might as well make two or three extra while I'm at it."
"If I'm going to do a benefit, I want the people I'm doing it for to work hard, if not harder, than if it was a commercial thing, because I'm not working for me, I'm working for them and, hell, I can stay home and make nothing."
"I was producing myself, you see? In other words, it was a contract within a contract. I got paid the regular top artist scale as an artist, but also the producing end of it was where the extra money came from. That was where, out of every dime I got seven and a half cents, and that's pretty damn good, man. That's besides the artist contract, you know. You see a cat gonna give you seven and a half cents out of every dime profit, now I don't know... [Laughter] Unbelievable contract, so it's pretty hard to ask a company to pay a cat five percent royalties, whatever it is, and then also give him seven and a half cents out of every dime profit, as a producer of my own records. And so you know the records were successful, you can imagine the amount of money I made so fast, quick. Sorry about that, man. I didn't mean to do it. [Laughter] What can I tell you'?"
"Record executives can't keep time, but they control all the money, they control all of everything."
"I don't care if Jesus is coming tomorrow. If you don't let people know, he's going to be on stage by himself."
"I don't see how being commercial demeans me; to me, commercialism means I'm getting more people to listen to my music."
"I can't be outdated, because I'm a musician. I know exactly what's going on in the music business."
"The glasses are my logo."
"I did drugs because it was my pleasure."
"I did drugs just like if I say, "I'm through work now, I'm going home. I think I'll have a beer." Well, that's the way I was using drugs."
"I'm not a person to say I smoke pot or I don't smoke pot. I frankly think that until it is legalized, what I do is my business, and I keep it to myself."
"I did it to myself. It wasn't society. It wasn't a pusher, it wasn't being blind or being black or being poor. It was all my doing."
"Okay, so I did it. I don't think that every time a story is written, this should be brought up. I'm not proud of the fact that I used drugs at one time, and I'm supposed to feel big now because I licked it. I don't see where it has anything to do with my career. Frankly, no one made me do it. When I was doing it, I was doing it because I wanted to, and that was that."
"Nothing, nothing, nothing. I was going to do what I was going to do anyway. It didn't give me anything. And it didn't take nothing."
"I'm black, I'm blind, I once fooled around with drugs, but all of it was like going to school - and I've tried to be a good student. I don't regret a damn thing."
"Addiction can be very, very bad. But addiction in itself isn't bad; it's a question of what you're addicted to. That's where the chickens come home to roost. You can be addicted to good habits, you know what I mean? You can be addicted to your woman. Addiction in itself is kind of like money."
"Addiction in itself is kind of like money. It ain't bad or good. It's what you do with it."
"Drugs obviously are not anything that can make you do anything better."
"Nothing is gonna make you perform better than the talent God gave you."
"Have your own self-high and don't get caught in a web like I did."
"One day, you got to stop. This is fine. I been there and done that, but it ain't good for you. You need to let it go. And I did exactly that."
"I'm not a person to say I smoke pot or I don't smoke pot."
"Gin lubricates me. Reefer mellows me. And between the two of them and some strong, black coffee, I perk along just fine."
"A lot of times, when the United States goes to help little countries, it says, 'We're going to build you all the roads you need; whatever you need, we're going to put it there for you.' But then it adds, 'The only thing you have to do now is stick with us and do what we want.' That's the kind of welfare I see going on here, too. My definition of welfare is: 'John, you say you need some money. Well, I'm going to give you that money - $400, $500, $1000 - whatever you need. Only I'm giving it to you for a month or a year, or however long you say you need it. Just like I have a responsibility to see that you get a break, you have a responsibility to me as a citizen to pay it back on time. You have to honor your responsibility, because I let you use your fellow citizens' money, the people who are slaving every day and paying taxes.' Now, John wants to know how the hell he's going to pay me back, when he wouldn't have borrowed the money in the first place, if he had any to pay me back with. 'Well, John, while you've got the taxpayers' money, I'm going to put you through this training school I've got. And since I'm the U.S. government, I've got courses in whatever you want to study—bricklaying or medicine. While you're there, John, I'm going to pay you some money, so that your family doesn't starve while you're learning. After you've learned your trade and once I place you in a job, that front money I loaned you must be paid back to the government—a little at a time—until every nickel is returned to my cash register.' That way, John has his dignity and the government gets a return on its investment."
"I do not try to tell nobody what their political influence ought to be... I just play music. "
"With many things which are people's personal habits, government should stay out."
"I'm anti-law when it comes to getting into people's bedrooms."
"Governments would do well to devote more time to serious things."
"Affluence separates people. Poverty knits 'em together."
"They say war has a purpose, but I'm not sure I agree."
"I never wanted to be famous. I only wanted to be great."
"If they think you're great, then don't fight it."
"I don't think I would have made it if I came up today."
"The innovation was copying. Good copying. Great copying. But I wouldn't put me up there with Bird and Diz."
"Maybe I put together two things that hadn't been put together before, but, hell, give credit to the church singers and the bluesmen who I got it from."
"I got enough credit. Let people know that it didn't come from me. It came from before me."
"I don't work with the crowd. The crowd works with me."
"When people are willing to not only come in the rain to hear you, but spend their money as well, I think that's beautiful."
"I just want people to remember me. How they remember me, I don't give a good damn about that; as long as I left a mark, that's good enough for me."
"I think 95% of my life has been documented somewhere. Everything, with the exception of when I was nobody, is known."
"The point is to make the music good because it's going to live on long after you're dead."
"Take off these fancy clothes, the sapphires and furs, and it's just skin and bones."
"It's amazing to receive this award. Sometimes, I feel like there are no awards left."
"I have been given honors that you don't normally get unless you're very ancient or you're dead."
"You see a lot of artists with big en-tourages because it makes them feel important. I don't have people around me just to tell me when I come offstage how great I was. I don't need that."
"Hollywood is a cold-blooded motherfucker. It's easier to bone the President's wife than to get a movie made. So I say God bless these cats. God bless Benjamin and Hackford and Ray Jr. Weren't for them, this would never happen. And now that it's happening, maybe I'll have a better chance of being remembered. I can't ask for anything more."
"All my kids know me."
"Nowadays they say you need to get a special chip to put in the TV so the kids can't watch this and that. In my day, we didn't need that. My mom was the chip."
"If I've got a dime, Q's got a nickel of it."
"Shit on living to be 100 years old if you're gonna suffer. Let me live 'til 60 and be happy."
"I know I like collard greens and neckbones, cabbage and chitlins, sweet potatoes, buttermilk and stuff, so whenever I can I try to do that. I know I like to sleep and I try to do nthat. I like a good woman every now and then and I try to do that, hello Jesus!"
"The name of the game is to treat your body right 'cause tt treats you right if you don't treat it bad."
"If it's really something good that was not on the record, that's okay, because when I perform I can make the performance of the song better than the record was."
"I don't take requests, honey."
" I don't take requests, brother. You don't want nobody coming in on your job telling you what to do! "
"Uh honey, you don't run up to the Chicago Symphony yelling 'Play Beethoven Five, play Beethoven Five!' so give me the same respect!"
"When you get people in the place, it's a different sound than in rehearsal. People absorb sound."
"Every time you add something to sound, you cancel out some other sound. I have to be concerned about my sound - I can't do anything else."
"I love working with youngsters. But when you work with youngsters, there's a little pain involved."
"Concert promoters always say, when I work at theaters in the round, 'Mr. Charles, you're getting ready to go on stage and you have to walk through the audience, so we've got to have security for you. People will be trying to touch you.' I say, Wait a minute! You mean I'm so great I can't be touched? All the people are gonna do is touch me and say, Hey, Ray, I love you, man!' What's wrong with that? "
"When you want ole Ray Charles to come here, just get a committee together and say, 'Let's get ole Ray Charles down here'. I'm easy to get ahold of."
"About gray hair: First of all, I don't have to look at it, so I don't care. And since God gave it to me, I'm perfectly satisfied with it. I'm just grateful I've got some hair. Friends of mine ain't got none."
"Music is number one in my life. That's it."
"So that's my thing, just make good music."
"I feel if I can't play my music, I'm outta here."
"Believe me sincerely, my performing is my existence."
"No question about it; [music i]s an art that entertains."
"Music is about the only thing left that people don't fight over. Music is written the same way for everybody. I wished the world was like that."
"With sports, [music is] the only thing in the world where people do not kill."
"I know I'm gonna get shot down for this, but I think music is the greatest art form ever, bar none."
"I sing what I feel, what I genuinely feel. That's it. No airs."
"I sing the songs for what they mean to me."
"If you can't sing with a cold, you can't sing without one."
"I don't know what they call my music. I just want to make sure it's the best music."
" A song that’s simple, you wanna keep it like it is. "
"Music is to be listened to, not to be looked at."
"I like my music to be like Coca-Cola - I want everybody in the world to dig it."
"I like playing the big place, I like playing the small clubs. I don't care where it is, 'cause, y'see, what I do is play to the people. They could be in a building. They could be in a house. They could be surrounded by four plain walls. As long as the people dig what I'm doing, I play for them."
"When you get up in the morning, you must have a song."
"Music is nothing separate from me. It is me. I can't retire from music any more than I can retire from my liver... I believe the Lord will retire me when He's ready. And then I'll have plenty of time for a long vacation."
"I was born with music inside me. That's the only explanation I know of, since none of my relatives could sing or play an instrument. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me - like food or water."
"Music really and truly is my bloodstream, you know, my breathing, my respiratory system. And as long as the public is willing to listen to me, there ain't no retiring until the day when they put me away."
"I wanted the flavor of a man's voice - my voice - set against women. I liked the male/female friction, and once I had it, I never let it go."
"If I don't get it, it's not going to move the people, and if it's not going to move the people, it's not going to happen."
"I can play a little shortstop, I can pitch, I can play the outfield. That's the key to my longevity."
"Basically, I'm not a singer."
"I don't consider myself a singer. If anything, one can say that I'm a stylist. Consequently, we have to collect songs that I can handle, where the material and I could be right for each other."
"If you don't like me at first, just listen a while. I'll find you."
"Well, you know, when you do yourself, you gotta like what you do."
"You study mathematics, I studied Nat Cole."
"I am my own engineer."
"When you write a good song, it will be good even if it's sung by somebody with a bad voice."
"I know that men ain't supposed to cry, but I think that's wrong. Crying's always been a way for me to get things out which are buried deep, deep down. When I sing, I often cry. Crying is feeling, and feeling is being human."
"The things I write and sing about concern the general Joe and his general problems. There are about four basic things: love, somebody running his mouth too much, having fun, and jobs are hard to get."
"I am a singer that can sing the blues, I am a singer that can sing jazz, I am a singer that can sing country. I don't specialize in nothing. I am a utility guy."
"You can take any song and put it in whatever idiom you want. You can take “Stardust” and make a country-and-western song out of it. All you got to do is et your two fiddles and Hawaiian guitar, Spanish guitar, and what they say down in the big foot country — they say a “boodle-fiddle,” which means the bass fiddle. And right away it’s called country-and-western music because of the background. Then you can do just the opposite, which is what I did — that is, take a song that is called a country-and-western song and put strings behind it, or a big band, and you’ve got a modern song."
"By me singing just a little bit flat, there ain't no way to bury me in the music. That's an old country trick. You listen to old country singers and they do that way; they never get buried, and the vocal always stays on top."
"Bossa nova? Actually, I don’t see what everyone is so excited about. The only difference is you take the last of that old Latin figure and play it a half-beat later. That’s all there is to it. You can play a melody on any rhythm … anything from a 3/4 to a 7/4 or 7/8. That’s something you rarely see on a piece of paper, but in the last couple of years there have been a few arrangements in 5/4 time, like a song called “Take Five.” Only other odd beat like five is seven. I count in eighth nots."
"I came to earth with my music like any necessary organ."
"Singin' in the shower like all of the time. It's a good way to hear yourself."
"All I was doing was-was just being myself with what really was within me. And what was within me? The blues and the church."
"People say when I'm singing they hear [...] the gospel part. But there's no doubt that the blues is at the root of it."
"Anybody can just run up and down the keys and be technical you know. I'm talking about notes that just want to make you cry when you hear them."
"You don't necessarily have to be singing the blues blues, if you know what I mean. But what I'm saying, it's that bluesy feeling, that emotion, man, when you sing. That is like the salt in the food. In other words, it's the seasoning, The blues is the saesoning. [...] You know that's what gives my singing the flavor it has."
"Feeling can not be taught."
"You take a song like Georgia, I’ve sung it thousands of times. But what happens is when I sing something, I never ever sing it the same way twice. And that’s not because I’m trying to be different, but it’s because I sing according to what I feel that night. Every day of our lives we feel different. You don’t feel the same way today as you felt yesterday - you may come close, but there is a little difference, and what difference there is, makes the difference."
"Music is such a big art that no one has to change their taste to suit another kind of music. There are many idioms of music."
"I try to play good progressive jazz. If enough people like it, it will stay. It's the same with rock 'n roll. All good music will stay."
"Dizzy Gillespie was a genius. Art Tatum was a genius. I'm a general practitioner, but I'm damn good at it."
"When I'm into my music, I see the song. I put myself into it. I can see into the lyrics and become a part of what the lyrics are talking about."
"When I put myself in the place of the guy, the general Joe I'm singing about, I want to feel that his problem is real. So I sing with all the feeling I can put into it, so that I can feel it myself. I sing the songs for what they mean to me."
" I become part of what I'm singing about. "
"You just can't sing about heartaches and misery and pain unless you really experienced it."
"Let's face it, you can do more with sad songs than with joyful songs. You can do more with grief because everybody has it."
"I don't want a song about guns, violence, sex. I want a love song that makes me want to cry, makes me feel something inside, a song that is touching, that is about human beings. They're out there, but you really have to look hard."
"I hate to hear anybody say that this form of music is a bad form or a good form. For example, you take most of your movies or TV programs, whenever they have any shows with violence or any kind of crime… robbery or murder or rape or anything of that kind of nature in the story… they always play modern jazz behind it. If there’s a thug in a room listening to some music, he’s always listening to some modern music. If he’s a killer and listening to his radio or record player, it’s always modern music, as if to say modern music leads to murder. I don’t think that’s fair. Why not have the criminal listening to opera? To classics? To country and western?"
"Nostalgia is a too-often maligned and seldom understood concept. Nothing wrong with it at all. It has its place, and is an important part of any entertainment package."
"The blues won't go out of style until people stop hurting each other."
"At one time rhythm and blues was nothing; then all of a sudden alone came a “Blue Suede Shoes” and one or two others; then it become rock and roll, and it was a big thing. Now, I can’t play rock and roll, but I do play rhythm and blues."
"The cats in the band could play the Blues. That came first. Show me a guy who can't play the Blues and I'm through with him before he can get started. If you can't get nasty and grovel down in the gutter, something's missing. It's not that the Blues are complicated. They're not; they're basic. There are hundreds of versions of the same Blues - the same changes, the same patterns - just as there are hundreds of versions of the same spirituals. The music is simple. But the feeling - the low-down gut-bucket feeling - has to be there or it's all for nothing."
"[Y]ou count 1, 3, 5, 7 … 1, 3, 5, 7 — you see how my hand is going? Very odd, because in one bar your afterbeat is 2 and 4 , in the next it’s on 1 and 3. You’ve got to feel it. If you try to count it, you get off."
"People say: Ray, you a genius, Ray, you a cornerstone, Ray, you this and you that. Those are nice accolades, and I certainly appreciate it when people think well of my music and what I've tried to do with it. But in my heart, I mean... I don't kid myself. I know I'm not a genius. A genius is somebody like Art Tatum or Charlie Parker. I don't come close to those guys. I just happen to be a guy that can do a lot of little things and do 'em well."
"You ain't gonna have an abundance of Duke Ellington in the near future. I think these things run in 100-year cycles."
"I'd say that singers like Carmen and Ella and Sarah are trying to get to as many people as they can - and not just for the sake of money, either. When the President makes a speech, he wants to speak to all Americans. These girls obviously reach more people than they would if they only sang blues. I sing more than one way for the same reason."
"The real determination of what I sing depends on public acceptance or rejection."
"I try to bring out my soul so that people can understand what I am."
"Soul is a force that can light up a room. The force radiates from a sense of selfhood, a sense of knowing where you've been and what it means. Soul is a way of life - but it's always the hard way."
"Soul is when you can take a song and make it part of you - a part that's so true, so real, people think it must have happened to you. It's like electricity - we don't really know what it is, do we? But it's a force that can light a room. Soul is like electricity, like a spirit, a drive, a power."
"Some people told me that I'd invented the sounds they called soul but I can't take any credit. Soul is just the way Black folk sing when they leave themselves alone."
"If I don't feel what I'm doing, I don't have the right to ask you to feel what I'm doing."
"If a person wants to sing blues, he's a blues singer. It's all right with me, I don't mind."
"The piano is the foundation, and that's it."
"I don't play well by myself."
"A lot of these keyboards might have 200 sounds, but most of them aren't worth a quarter. Out of those 200 sounds I might find ten that are truly exciting, and things that I would use. So I search around for things that are suitable for me. I ask, will this sound bring something to the table? Will it enhance what I'm trying to do - yes or no?"
"The touch on a lot of synthesizer keyboards is much too soft for me. I’m used to playing hard on the piano - I like the keys to jump back at me. I can still play them when the feel is lighter, but that's not the point. The point is that I like to be happy while I'm doing it!"
"I used to be a much better clarinet player than a saxophonist."
"I like classical music, I can play Beethoven, I can play Rachmaninov, I can play Chopin. Every now and then when I do dates with symphony orchestras I play these things and I shock the hell out of people."
"About rap: I can read. I can write. I used to write songs. So what does it mean to me to say, 'I wanna-sa-za-da-anna-buzz-a-buss-za-ba-dah! I mean what is that?"
"About rap: I'm still waiting for the music part."
"About the Rolling Stones: I went to hear them one time in England. They had Billy Preston, who used to work with me. That's why I went there. The music, they had it so loud that when I came out, I literally scared myself to death because I couldn't hear. I thought I was losing my hearing. I'm already blind."
"About Rock 'n Roll: Basically, rock 'n roll came into being when white artists and white bands started covering black music. That seems like a blunt way of putting it, and it may sound like I'm a racist, but I'm not; that's just the best way to explain it."
"About Rock 'n Roll vs Rhythm 'n Blues: One is more dirty: the blues, the rhythm 'n blues. [It] has a little more toe jam in it; the rock 'n roll is a little more pure and clean."
"You can't teach a man how to have the blues."
"About Elvis: He was doing our kind of music. He was doing the Willie Mae Thornton Jail House Rock. That's black music. So what am I supposed to get so excited about, man? I think all that stuff about saying he's the king, that's a piece of bunk."
"About disco:It's just an offtake of soul music, except in stead of playing it in 2 1/2 minutes they play it in 10 minutes. I don't know if I like to have songs running 10 minutes."
"Noise don't make a player."
"About David Newman: Fathead has the sound, the soul and the melodic mind that make him a jazz giant. The only thing I never liked, though, was his nickname. 'Fathead' doesn't recognize his intelligence. That's why I always call him 'Brains'."
"About imitators: It's a nice feeling to know people have enough respect for what you do. They get their soul involved with your soul."
"On sampling: Why do I need to sample? I've got a brain. I can think of my own music, I don't have to go and steal your two bars to make a hit with it."
"On composing: The reason I say I'm not a writer is because I'm one of these people for whom it will take three days to write a song. I'll write."
"On arranging: There's something for everybody to do if they just want to do it."
"You take country music, you take black music, you got the same goddamn thing exactly."
"I never considered myself part of rock 'n' roll. My stuff was more adult. It was more difficult for teenagers to relate to; my stuff was filled with more despair than anything you'd associate with rock 'n' roll. Since I couldn't see people dancing, I didn't write jitterbugs or twists. I wrote rhythms that moved me. My style required pure heart singing."
"Most guys write the score first and then write parts from the score. Naturally, I do it backwards. I write the parts first and then the score. I know that's wrong, so you don't have to tell me. I started doing it because I was in such a hurry to hear the music."
"You can't have people makin' musical decisions who can't tap their feet."
"Back when I started, you had music people running the record business, people who could tap their feet and snap their fingers in time. Today it's all attorneys and lawyers. These guys can't even keep time to a march."
"The way I see it, we're actors, but musical ones. We're doing it with notes, and lyrics with notes, telling a story. I can take an audience and get 'em into a frenzy so they'll almost riot, and yet I can sit there so you can almost hear a pin drop."
"Whatever I say or whatever I play, I do it natural. It's just natural. Whatever way I feel the song, that's the way I sing it. When I'm sittin' playin' a song, I play the notes the way that they come to me in my head. It's never a case of puttin' on or tryin' to make anything the way somebody else does it or wants it done."
"I don’t give a damn what anybody else thinks; my way is what I want."
"Music has been around a long time, and there's going to be music long after Ray Charles is dead. I just want to make my mark, leave something musically good behind. If it's a big record, that's the frosting on the cake, but music's the main meal."
"Now you have a right to say you don't want it, but you can't tell me how to do it. I won't allow that. "
"In order for that guy to copy me, he gotta wait 'til I do it first."
"If someone hears something in Ray Charles and tries to get as close to it as they can get, I'm for it!"
"When you write a good song, it will be good even if it's sung by somebody with a bad voice."
"In music you just can't escape when something is beautiful. Like a good song, you can't get away from a good song. You have a good song, and it will still be beautiful, even when somebody with a bad voice sings it."
"You put yourself into the voice of the song so that you can feel what the song is dictating."
"If I wasn't a musician, I might be a writer."
"I don’t think I would like to be a movie star. When you make movies, you do an awful lot of nothing."
"[... I]f I hadn't been a musician, I'd have been a lawyer. Aside from the fact that I've always been fascinated with the law, it's a field I could have learned without my sight. One of my friends from the blind school is an attorney now in Daytona Beach. I think I would have been a trial lawyer; I can't stand my speaking voice, but I like to talk. Music is my work, though, and I love it too much to see how I could really have done anything else."
"Photography is the only field I know where you can get it wrong 99 out of a hundred times and still look like a genius - I have to get me a job like that."
"We're always keeping time, always playing rhythm."
"Just watch me, son, and you'll never be wrong."
"Whatever we do, somebody has done something similar before we did it."
"You can tell the drum player, you can tell the bass player, you can tell the rhythm player that they're a little late, but I'm the star and what I'm doing is not timing, it's emotion. You don't mess with my emotion. And along with that, you never let the arrangement or the music outshine the star. The star should always be on top."
"I've had people ask me about music I had forgotten I'd ever made."
"You don’t have to finger like I finger."
"To me, when you have a song like 'America the Beautiful' around, it's such a shame it's not our national anthem. But I guess maybe people think it's important we sing in praise of our bombs."
"I can't learn myself; that's why I can't lipsync."
"If you please nine guys out of ten, then the tenth guy is the one you're going to read about."
"I wouldn't have known when to duck when they started throwing broken bottles at my head. And I told that to Martin personally."
"I think what made me become so hung up with Dr. King was the fact that he was saying, look, here is a chance not only for our country but the world to see what injustice can do to people."
"I don’t know what the devil a political activist really is, actually. If something is going on that really affects you to the point wherein you feel that here's an opportunity for you to do something about it, if that makes you a political activist, then I guess I am."
"If I go out into a march, first of all, I can't see, number one. So somebody throws something at me, I can't even duck, you know, in time. That's number one. Number two, I know that my temperament, as much as I would like and as much as I love and appreciate what Dr. King stood for, I know that my temperament just couldn't handle it. You know, when you can't handle something, you can’t handle it. And I’m not the kind of a person that can let somebody strike me and don’t strike 'em back, you see? And you're not supposed to do that, you're supposed to, you know, to accept that and I know I couldn't do that, so why get involved in something and make Dr. King look bad because of me? That don't make sense. So I figure, why don't you do something in a quiet way, I don't need to be in the newspapers and said, well, Ray Charles contributed this or Ray Charles gave that. I didn't want that."
"I was just someone who loved Dr. King, let me explain it that way. And when I met him [in Birmingham, in 1963], as far as I was concerned, he was like an earthly god to me. Everything was an honor, so he didn't sit down and tell me how great I was and thank God he didn't 'cause that was not what I wanted to hear in the first place. So, no, he just spoke to me and as I said he told me how pleased and satisfied that he was that we were there. And to me that said everything."
"I think what made me become so hung up with Dr. King was the fact that he was saying, look, here is a chance not only for our country but the world to see what injustice can do to people. And it is also a chance if I and if the people, if we can get together and do this, it will also show America and the world that we can change this injustice and we don't have to go out and get a bunch of nuclear bombs and half kill each other. Or totally kill each other."
"Because I'm a black man, whatever affects my people affects me. This means that the greatest handicap I've had - and still have - is my color."
"If the blues ever gets sung by a White person, it'll be a Jew who does it. They've known what it is to be somebody else's footstool."
"My version of Georgia became the state song of Georgia. That was a big thing for me, man. It really touched me. Here is a state that used to lynch people like me suddenly declaring my version of a song as its state song. That is touching."
"When Nat Cole sang a blues or a so-called popular song, he never tried to sing white. I'm the same - I just sing it my way."
"We have to realize that it is to the advantage of all of us - black and white - to be of the best quality, in our thoughts, in our minds, in our hearts, in our actions and in what we produce. If we're really going to be a power, we have to remain on a competitive level with everybody."
"Everyone can see that I'm black, so I guess I don't have to tell anyone about it."
"I don't think people want me to make speeches."
"What I never understood to this day, to this very day, was how white people could have black people cook for them, make their meals, but wouldn't let them sit at the table with them. How can you dislike someone so much and have them cook for you? Shoot, if I don't like someone you ain't cooking nothing for me, ever."
"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."
"Just because Bell invented the telephone is no reason to say Ray Charles can't use it. It's ridiculous to have certain music for certain races."
"Until every man in America can get any job he's qualified for or any house he's got the money to buy, regardless of his color, I'll always be handicapped."
"We always gonna have racism."
"People want more and more and more, and some seem to have a need to look down on others, and they're bothered when no one's around to look down upon."
"In listening to sound, I guess what I'm after is the closest thing that I can get to reality. Now, I know it's not going to be reality, cause the thing gotta go through wires and gotta go through filters and this and that. I understand all that. But what I really like is to get as close to the natural sound of the instruments as possible. That's why I like analog as opposed to digital. Because I don't give a shit what anybody tells you man, I know what you guys are going to tell me…’Oh yeah, but it’s clean Ray!’ Well it's clean but it don't got no balls!"
"You know how records are; you never know what the public is going to buy. You can take one you feel has all the qualifications for a hit, and it winds up doing nothing. Then you come out with one you think won’t sell, and it winds up No. 1. That happened several times with me, but I have a theory; I don’t go into the to record a 'B' side; everything I cut is 'A' side, as far as I’m concerned. Let the public decide what’s the 'A' side; in the final analysis they are the ones to decide."
"I never, ever record or play anything that I don't genuinely love. See, I wish I could if I had the talent, meaning that some people can just take ANY song and go on ahead and do it. But anything that you hear of Ray Charles, you can believe me, he loved it when he did it."
"A disc jockey may concentrate on one side, but the public doesn’t care and starts to play the other side, and the guy will realize that’s the one he should have been playing all along."
"When I was going blind, I didn't turn to God. It didn't seem to me then - and it doesn't seem to me now - that those items were His concern. Early on, I figured I better begin to learn how to count on myself, instead of counting on supernatural forces."
"There's nothing written in the Bible, Old or New testament, that says, If you believe in Me, you ain't going to have no troubles."
"I'm a firm believer in God himself, but that's as far as I can go. I'm not any denomination. I'm not Catholic or Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist or Jewish or Muslim. I'm none of those things. And I'm sure that's just fine with God."
"It ain't God who needs the praise - it's us who need to do the praising."
"Let me say right here and now that I'm a country boy. And, man, I mean the real backwoods! That's at the start of the start of the thing, and that's at the heart of the thing."
"My music had roots which I'd dug up from my own childhood, musical roots buried in the darkest soil."
"I cannot understand how we as Americans, possessing such a rich heritage of music and the artists who play it, don't recognize all those talented people. It's a shame that so many of today's young people don't know the work of Art Tatum or Dizzy Gillespie or Charlie Parker or Clifford Brown, to name a few. They are the creators; they are the artists who helped form the backbone of our country's popular music. When you talk about, say, classical music, you're talking about a form that came from Europe and European composers and musicians from an earlier time. But, we basically created jazz in this country, we own that form of music. And it's sad that we all don't have more extensive knowledge of that fact. In Europe, though, you find people who know all about our music. I'm talking about the average person. I've been to Europe and talked to people who have records of mine that I forgot I ever made! And I find that incredible."
"I figured anything that could kill me, I wanna know something about it. So I learned how to turn it, how to bank, where the controls are. If the pilot collapses, all I need is a good control-tower guy to talk me down. Man, I might tear off a wing, but I'd land it."
"Then there were motorcycles. I learned to ride one in Tallahassee when I was about 14 or 15. I got to know the town pretty well, and soon I felt confident about riding round. Tallahassee was full of hills, and I loved racing up and down 'em, sometimes trailing my friend or riding next to him, so I could hear the sound of the exhaust and make sure to follow closely and yet not too closely. I know it sounds strange - a blind teenager buzzin' round on a motorcycle - but I liked that; that was me. I had always been nervy, and I always had a lot of faith in my ability not to break my neck."
"On arriving in a country on the morning of the show: What else am I going to do, go sightseeing?"
"I'm not saying I've loved that many women. Love is a special word, and I use it only when I mean it. You say the word too much and it becomes cheap."
"Sex needs to be open and fun, free and happy. It's whatever you make it, and I try my hardest to create situations where me and my woman can enjoy ourselves - all of ourselves - without our inhibitions getting in the way."
"I'm not sure that there can ever be too much sex. To me, it's another one of our daily requirements — like eating. If I go twenty-four hours without it, I get hungry.Women anchor me. They're there when I need them. They're sensitive to me, and I'm sensitive to them."
"Let's say that a cat with eyes gets together with a sexy woman. Well, she's got half her battle won right there. Now, with me, she's got to show how good her talents work before I even twitch."
"I been married twice and I decided matrimony is a wonderful institution and that people should really get themselves involved in it. However, I've come to the conclusion that cabbage is a great food, and milk is a great food, and yet it ain't for me. I'm allergic to it. And that's what I think about marriage."
"I was married, but marriage is like eggs. Good for you but not for everyone. And you know the airlines don't serve peanuts anymore. Not good for some people."
"Milk is a great drink but not everybody can drink it. It's the same with marriage. Marriage is a great institution. I have tried it but I cannot handle it."
"I'm not sure that there can ever be too much sex. To me, it's another one of our daily requirements - like eating. If I go twenty-four hours without it, I get hungry. Sex needs to be open and fun, free and happy. It's whatever you make it, and I try my hardest to create situations where me and my woman can enjoy ourselves - all of ourselves - without our inhibitions getting in the way. You got to set your mind right and the rest will come to you naturally. No restrictions, no hang-ups, no stupid rules, no formalities, no forbidden fruit - just everyone getting and giving as much as he and she can."
"RC: 'Are you Mr. Phil Spector?’
RC: ‘Are you the Boy Genius?’
RC: ‘Are you the inventor of the Wall Of Sound?’
RC: ‘Are you the guy who had over 20 hit singles in a row?’
RC: ‘Then Mr. Spector, how come there's no toilet paper in the bathroom?'
"Whitney Balliett (1976): He improvises constantly, and he will use any vocal weapon - melismatics, yodels, growls, crooning, falsetto, whispers, shouts, chanting, blue notes, grace notes, retards. It no longer matters whether he sings blues or country-and-western or standards or Eleanor Rigbey or America, it only matters how he sings. One waits for the shout, the pine-sap diction, the guttural asides, the spidery staccato sprays of notes, the polysyllabic explosions, the faster-than-the-ear dynamics."
"Ray Brown: When Ray was through with his set, we turned to each other and asked just one question, 'Who wants to follow that?'"
"Chico Hamilton (c. 1960): Ray Charles is the earth, the thing that everybody has contact with. He's really saying something."
"Frank Sinatra: Ray Charles is the only genius in our business."
"Dizzy Gillespie:: If [Ray Charles] hadn't been blind, I would've dropped my trumpet on his head."
"James Taylor: Ray Charles has made the greatest individual contribution to American music in my lifetime... He was a genius. He was the one."
"Van Morrison: His sound was stunning - it was blues, it was R&B, it was gospel, it was swing - it was all the stuff I was listening to before that but rolled into one amazing, soulful thing."
"James Brown: I tell you one thing: He could see a lot better than those eyes."
"James Brown: What set him apart? He was Ray Charles!"
"Ruth Brown: He taught me to feel what I didn't see."
"Ruth Brown: He told me they were making a movie about his life and asked who should play me. I said, Halle Berry. He said, Ruth, I ain't that blind."
"Big Bill Broonzy: He's got the blues. He's crying sanctified. He's mixed the blues with the spirituals. I Know that's wrong."
"Jerry Wexler: There was only one album that was called The Genius Of Ray Charles. That was the last album he did for us and he went to greener pastures, I suppose. I had wanted to use the word ‘Genius’ in connection with a Ray Charles album for a year or two but my partners dissuaded me – that is, Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun – they said, ‘Let's not get so boastfu.l’ Finally, we all agreed that the album deserved the appellation so that's how it came about."
"Etta James: Ray's shit hit me hard and early."
"B.B. King: Playing with Ray Charles is like dying and going to heaven."
"B.B. King: He was a black blind Beethoven."
"Willie Nelson: Ray took country music to the world. And in some way the rest of us country singers are riding on his coattails."
"Willie Nelson: With his recording of I Can't Stop Loving You, Ray Charles did more for country music than any other artist."
"Aretha Franklin: He was a fabulous man, full of humor and wit, and a giant of an artist."
"Stevie Wonder: His voice made me feel like I wanted to love deeper, to care more and reach out and touch the world."
"Johnny Mathis: He left not only the phenomenal music he sang and recorded, he left the indelible impression on people that it's all right to be yourself."
"Lenny Bruce: Dig, I'm Jewish. Count Basie's Jewish. Ray Charles is Jewish. Eddie Cantor is goyish... Marine Corps - heavy goyish... If you live in New York or any other big city, you're Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, you're going to be goyish even if you're Jewish... Kool-Aid is goyish. Evaporated milk is goyish even if Jews invented it... Pumpernickel is Jewish and, as you know, white bread is very goyish.... Negroes are all Jews... Irishmen who have rejected their religion are Jewish... Baton twirling is very goyish."
"Nipsey Russell: He's got enough soul to go to Heaven without dying."
"Bob Abrams: You know you're getting a good show when Ray's socks fall down...his feet are going up over the piano. One sock falls half-mast. It's because of all the energy he expands. That's his exercise."
"Martin Scorsese: You don't get Ray Charles up at 7:30 in the morning to sing Hallelujah I Love Her So."
"Clint Eastwood: Certainly Ray was super-talented, but talent comes with a lot of work. I don’t think I’ve met anyone with a stronger work ethic than Ray Charles."
"Quincy Jones: 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."
"Jesse Jackson: Heaven now has a maestro."
"Quincy Jones: Ray and I used to say to each other all the time, 'Not one drop of my self worth depends on you're acceptance of me.' We had that attitude to keep strong during any kind of adversity. We just kept our eyes on our dreams, and thank God, we realized a lot of our dreams."
"Quincy Jones: Ray is a nation. I mean you talk about everybody else and you talk about Ray Charles, that's the way I feel about it. He invented it."
"Quincy Jones: He had the greatest balance between soul and science, heart and head."
"Quincy Jones: Is there a quintessential Ray Charles sound? Absolutely. It is the pain converted into joy. It’s darkness converted into light."
"Bonnie Raitt: There was music before Ray Charles, and there's music after Ray Charles. It's that stark a difference."
"Anonymous: You've got to believe that when they created Ray Charles they took a bit of extra time."
"George Clinton: What'd I Say probably got to be the most funky record ever made - it had to be the epitome... I just didn't know what I was calling it."