A snapshot flashback
Ray Charles' last area
Story and Photo By Andy ArgyrakisSoul music has lost one of its most innovative pianists in the form of Ray Charles. The Atlanta born artist's impact on the world has been immeasurable and his performances were consistently brilliant, even in his elder years.
The star's last appearance in the Chicagoland area was at the U.I.C. Pavilion in December 2002. Though that event was several hundred shows ago for a writer/photographer like myself, I was there to briefly capture the moment and recall Charles' first being escorted onstage by an assistant, giving a brief wave to the crowd and then settling down at a keyboard to do what he does best.
Charles began by playing the chords to "Sadie's Time," his face lighting up with a signature smile, swaying from side to side while belting out the words to the deeply soulful composition. His backing orchestra and string section had an amplifying effect, filling up the enormous space as the legendary soul singer won over even the last row of patrons with unwavering delivery. Six decades of performance have also yielded classics like "Georgia on My Mind" and an incredible rendition of "America the Beautiful," both of which I can remember from that evening.
Though it may have been for a brief period, seeing this living legend was a real treat for all and something they won't soon forget. Charles gave fans a spirit-lifting show with encouraging messages and just the fact that he upheld his road warrior tradition for so long was truly remarkable. If only we could have more artists like Charles who leaned on the traditions of the past while forging ahead with refreshing arrangements for the future, then the modern music world would be a much better place.
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