Ray Charles Joins In A Prayer For America (2001)
“Tears flowed freely in Yankee Stadium” on Sunday Sunday 23 September 2001 “as mourners led by clergy from the world’s major religions paid somber tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks”. The program was called A Prayer For America. (The vigil was originally set for Central Park, but Mayor Giuliani moved it to the Stadium’s more enclosed space for security concerns).
Bette Midler drew tears with an emotional rendering of Wind Beneath My Wings, Lee Greenwood got flags waving with God Bless The U.S.A. The Boys Choir and the Girls Choir of Harlem raised spirits with a rendition of We Shall Overcome. Oprah Winfrey, speaking resolutely for the need to move from suffering to strength, drew cheers when she said from the podium, “God Bless New York.” When NYPD bagpipers played Amazing Grace, some officers wiped away tears between phrases, and Placido Domingo’s rendition of Ave Maria stilled the house. “Of course” Ray Charles sang America The Beautiful.
But angry resolve also rippled through the crowd. The 20,000 gave multiple standing ovations to Giuliani, who declared: “To those who say our city will never be the same, I say: You are right; it will be better.” Later, there were mass chants of “USA! USA!” Admiral Robert Natter, commander-in-chief of the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, called for action: “To our terrorist enemies, we say: You picked the wrong city; you picked the wrong country.”
“It didn’t work,” a critic wrote, “Even the carefully selected video clips shown on TeeVee news couldn’t hide the many empty seats.” Sources: 1, 2.
The weeks after the 9/11 attack the American airwaves were filled with patriotic songs. Ray’s America The Beautiful was probably the song that was most frequently played. Cf. this.