Ray Charles: The Music, the Genius, the Pathology

The Ray Charles Symposium

Panels and Workshops

Session 3a: Ray Charles and Black Music in America

Saturday, September 22
11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

Session Description: African American artists have made a profound impact on what is commonly referred to as popular American music. Whether it is the raw lament of the blues, the challenging chord progressions of jazz, the heart wrenching stories of rhythm, soul and gospel, these sophisticated art forms remain the musical cement that unifies American culture. 

One of the giants who integrated all of those musical styles into his repertoire was Ray Charles. He was the ambassador of good will for America, obliterating the barriers and categories that limited most African American performers and musicians. Charles unapologetically presented to the world an American musical art form that was fundamentally African centered. He was unrivaled in his musical genius and universal appeal. He was triumphant in his career despite the challenges of institutional racism and drug and alcohol addiction that negatively impacted on the lives and careers of so many African American artists. 
This panel will explore the relationship between musical genius and the pathology of drug dependence and alcoholism. This clinic will celebrate the music of Ray Charles and its contribution to the world's acceptance of the humanity of people of African descent and also offer young artists an insight into the systemic conditions that have lead to many of our most talented artist struggling with the horrors of drug abuse. Such a discussion may offer young artists a "blueprint" on how to avoid this pitfall.

Moderator: Larry Watson