Written by
Bob Stumpel

January 18

Ray Charles Live In Washington (2003)

03 LC WhitehouseConcert 2003 Whitehouse

I thought I had sufficiently harvested the web for any trace of streaming media with Ray Charles’ music, but I just found this C-Span page, with Ray’s complete, 45-minute performance at The 89th Annual White House Correspondents Dinner on 26 April 2003, in a ballroom at the downtown Washington Hilton Hotel.
Much of the attention of the cameras goes to the 2,500 members of the media, politicians and celebrities, but the audio is decent enough, and there’s enough proof of Ray and his trio (Brad Rabuchin, guitar; Tom Fowler, bass; Peter Turre, drums) having a good time. For more context see this.

The setlist was:

  1. Route 66 
  2. A Song For You 
  3. Hallelujah I Love Her So 
  4. Georgia On My Mind 
  5. Stranger In My Own Hometown 
  6. Your Cheating Heart
  7. Teardrops From My Eyes
  8. Just For A Thrill
  9. It Had To Be You 
  10. 3/4 Time

You can watch the whole concert here.

In April 2003 Reuters Television (ID 304260014; source here) produced a 2 minute news item on Ray Charles’ perfomance at the Correspondents Dinner. The last – untrue – statement in Reuters’ press story seems to have originated from Ray’s own PR department:

The glittering event, held in a spacious ballroom at the downtown Washington Hilton Hotel […] brought together more than 2,500 members of the media, politicians and celebrities. Because of current events and the ongoing war in Iraq, the dinner had a decidedly different and more somber tone from past years. Instead of a stand-up comedian as in the past, this year veteran entertainer Ray Charles performed a 45 minute set including some of his classics: Route 66 and [A Song For You]. The usual array of Hollywood celebrities were on hand for this year’s dinner, including actresses Jennifer Love Hewitt and Bo Derek, actor Rob Lowe and comedian Drew Carey. The winner of 12 Grammys, the 72-year old Charles is on a 200-city North American concert tour.

The AP Archive has another news item. Shot #13 is a medium shot of Ray Charles performing; #15 is a pan of Laura and President Bush watching Charles. Source here.

Ray Charles knew what to ask for an extra effort, and how and when to stick to a contract. In an interview with the National Journal, Julia Whiston, the executive director of the White House Correspondents’ Association, reflected on her experience with Ray Charles, at the 89th Correspondent’s Dinner in 2003 [note that I haven’t found ANY complaint about this kind of prima donna behavior by Ray in the 70 years of documentation that I’ve ploughed through, BS]:

Ray Charles was the biggest prima donna of all time, God rest his soul. He could be very, very difficult. We had asked if he would do his famous version of America The Beautiful. He said he would do that only if we paid an additional $250,000 on top of what he was already being paid. We said, ‘No, thank you.’ Then, we were running a little bit ahead of schedule. He was introduced, and he wasn’t coming on. So I walked around behind stage and said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, this is your cue. We’re ready to go.’ He asked his aide what time it was, and when he found it was seven minutes earlier than his contract stated, he refused and stood behind stage – and left our president, Bob Deans, up there trying to make jokes for seven minutes and left the president of the United States waiting for seven minutes. That’s the prize.

Watch them wait from 25:20 (video without Ray):
For the remaining ‘waiting minutes, and the actual concert, watch this. Also read this earlier post on the concert.


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