This week, marking what would have been Ray Charles 83rd birthday, the U.S. Postal Service honors the singer with a new postage stamp. And, there’s also a new CD and DVD collection featuring great Ray Charles performances.
“Ray Charles Forever” opens with a newly remastered version of fellow piano man Leon Russell’s “A Song For You.” It’s one of a dozen tunes on the CD in the collection.
The president of the Ray Charles Foundation, Valerie Ervin, said that while fans of the singer and pianist may already have most of this music, there are extras that make this set special.
“We released some DVD footage, some of that has never been seen or put out in many, many years,” she said. “Some of it was shot over in Europe. It was a live show, so we are releasing that to DVD. That will be bonus footage for everyone to enjoy. And a lot of the tracks were remastered, so the sound comes up to today’s quality of sound, if you will.”
But there is one never-before-released recording on “Ray Charles Forever.”
“They Can’t Take That Away From Me” is a song that Ray always performed in his live shows, but it’s never been put out on record,” Ms. Ervin said. “So, a lot of people are going to get this track for the very first time and hear it for the very first time.”
We often think of Charles as a great rhythm and blues singer, so hearing a swinging version of a George and Ira Gershwin classic — or his country songs — is a good reminder that he sang all kinds of American popular music.
Valerie Ervin explains that Charles believed singing was another form of storytelling.
“It heals people, it helps people, no matter what genre you’re singing,” she said. “So, for him to take an old gospel song and sing it and bring it to life, everyone gravitates to it. You go ‘I never heard that song before.’ But when he puts his stamp on it, you thought that it really happened to him. And that’s what music is all about.”
The 20-minute DVD portion of the package includes songs recorded during some mid-1990s festivals and interviews from the 1980s. A music-only version of “Ray Charles Forever” is available for download, as well.