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Brother Ray: Ray Charles' Own Story

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Ray Charles (1930-2004) led one of the most extraordinary lives of any popular musician. In Brother Ray, he tells his story in an inimitable and unsparing voice, from the chronicle of his musical development to his heroin addiction to his tangled romantic life. Overcoming poverty, blindness, the loss of his parents, and the pervasive racism of the era, Ray Charles was acclaimed worldwide as a genius by the age of thirty-two. By combining the influences of gospel, jazz, blues, and country music, he invented, almost single-handedly, what became known as soul. And throughout a career spanning more than a half century, Ray Charles remained in complete control of his life and his music, allowing nobody to tell him what he could and couldn't do.As the Chicago Sun-Times put it, Brother Ray is "candid, explicit, sometimes embarrassing, often hilarious, always warm, touching and deeply human-just like his music."

384 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1978

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About the author

Ray Charles

54 books20 followers
Ray Charles Robinson, known by his stage name Ray Charles, was an American pianist and musician who shaped the sound of rhythm and blues. He brought a soulful sound to country music, pop standards, and a rendition of "America the Beautiful" that Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes called the "definitive version of the song, an American anthem — a classic, just as the man who sung it."

Frank Sinatra called him "the only true genius in the business." And in 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Ray Charles #10 on their list of The Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

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5 stars
375 (39%)
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360 (37%)
3 stars
167 (17%)
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34 (3%)
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13 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 90 reviews
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,388 reviews1,057 followers
January 27, 2016
"If you wash yourself in anger, you never have clean hands."

Definitely recommended for biography fans. Unlike some of them, it doesn't skirt the intimate moments, hide the truths, or avoid controversy.

Ray Charles was definitely an impressive man - how could someone say he was not? Blinded as a child, he never let it slow him down. Blind, he learned how to ride a bike and cruised around the neighborhood. He went by himself to a school for the blind at a young age. After his mother's death, he traveled states blind and alone, finding bus stops and night clubs and hotels in each strange new city. He blended different genres of music, tried things not successful before, made them work. He learned to play different instruments, sharpened his voice to be a beautiful instrument of music. One day he decided to kick heroin for the sake of his son and admitted himself, refusing the help of the come-down drugs and other methods, to the point where the hospital staff didn't believe he wasn't using until they saw the tests for themselves, and he never went back to it.

Brother Ray is an honest biography told through his words, dictated by a biographer. He speaks fondly of his childhood - which to me sounds quite sad but he lives it up as a happy time. He saw his brother die before his eyes outside when they swimming in a barrel and he froze, unable to save him - he went through going blind at a young age and having to leave the only home he knew and his mother, and then hearing about her death through a letter. They were about as poor as people can be, but he still remained happy and carefree. It was inspiring and one of the best parts.

The bulk of the book is, of course, about music. The four rating over five is because sometimes this got too much for me to see the repetitive movements between towns, records, gigs, songs, and new band members. The repetition prompted enjoyment from me, but to where I needed breaks from reading it. It would blend together a little too often and too much to get a five star interest - but for honesty it's certainly five stars.

He spoke freely of sex, of which he was a big fan. It was funny but he'd randomly come out with something sexual while speaking of something else. One moment he mentions a masturbation game the boys at the blind school would do - lay in a circle and have a contest masturbating. Another time he randomly talked about refusing oral sex received because he'd never delivered, and that he didn't think it was right to do that, so proceeds to tell about his first experience in a club. There was a small tidbit about 'parties' (cough - orgies?) later on, and he made it clear he didn't see anything wrong with sleeping with other women while you were married and 'respectful' about it.

He also saw little downfall for him with drugs but made clear he knew how some people fell apart over it, couldn't shake it, and how it ruined them. He didn't speak too much on the drug details but enough that I got a clear picture, mentioning his busts and his stint in rehab, but it was the tears of his son that really affected him to do the change.

While he doesn't go into detail on the Georgia scandal that prompted 'Georgia on my mind', he mentions racism often, peppered from childhood (where he didn't pay much attention to the areas of town he couldn't go and didn't really notice till later) to adulthood, where he spoke of respect for Martin Luther King (but didn't march in his march because he refused to be non-violent if he was physically attacked, so financially supported instead) and his personal experiences. It was honest, interesting, and non-biased - he was not racist himself and found it odd how as a child was segregated from the girls at the blind school since he was a boy, but then segregated from the other white blind kids. Certainly it wasn't the kids who could see their differences.

His views on religion were interesting and brought up more in his older years toward the end of the book. He believed in God but struggled with the concept of Jesus being God's son, since the Jews themselves rejected Him as the messiah. He also didn't believe in middlemen in prayer, said the Lord's prayer every night, and didn't care which denomination he attended - he loved the gospel and found much of his heart in it. He was a firm believer for most of the book that he himself had overcome and gotten him where it got him, not God, and that to bother God for everything would 'try his patience.'

He does tell of some near scares traveling through flying, one in particular where everyone said only a miracle was the answer, but was confused to point out that others weren't so lucky.

It was touching to read the afterword written by the biographer. Actually it's a must-do if you read this. You must. It was so sad, however, for Ray Charles feared two things only in this life - deafness and cancer. He believed to be deaf and without music would not be bearable, and this was brought in force by a scare he had in an ear that had a poisonous lump. He feared cancer and said that being eaten away and being reduced was the worst thing he could imagine, and he said as a closing that he did ask God not to have either deafness or cancer.

In the afterword we sadly learn that many years later he does develop cancer, and he fights it strong, telling the biographer and personal friend that he'd beat it and get better. He became more reflective on God and came to accept Jesus and give Him more thought. He saw more credit owed to Him for strength and how much he was carried through life. He started having some regrets about bad words said in the bands, harshness sometimes and loss of patience. He dwindled away as he feared and his voice was reduced to a whisper, his body bowed and in pain for his final speech in front of many. He said into the mike that he was getting stronger, and six weeks later the biographer learned he was dead. Tragic, but he does say several times in the book that he learned in life that death comes for all and is the only thing that can't be bargained with. Still sad.

An excellent book that's honest, deep, and detailed. He muses about morals, faith, music, coming into your own style, the need of mimicking others first, racism, mothers and fathers, children, paternity suits, the law and following honor systems, the joys of roaming the road, the joys of having a childhood home. It was clearly put through his own voice, his own words, his own unique dialect and style of speech.

His last paragraph in the book: "Sometimes my dreams are so deep that I dream that I'm dreaming. I wake up inside myself. I watch myself sleeping and I look like a baby or a boy - tired from playing all the day long, a small soul hungry for peace and rest."
Profile Image for May Ling.
1,071 reviews287 followers
February 27, 2020
Summary: This is a hold-no-punches portrayal of Ray Charles. He was a womanizer for sure, but not so different from any other musician that is glorified. Brilliant though and focused. What an incredible life.

p. 15 - His depiction of the kind of outsourced jobs that were from people that had service jobs to white families it barely paid.

p. 17 - "He saw I was willing to give up my playing time for the piano, so I guess he figured I loved music as much as he did. And all this was happening when I was only three."

p. 24 - His mother said when people criticized her for treating RC like he wasn't blind: "He's blind," Mamam told them, "but he ain't stupid. He's lost his sight, but he ain't lost his mind."

p. 27 - "... the school housed the deaf and blind, boys and girls, black and white, from around ages six through eighteen. And talk about segregation!"
He then goes into detail about how it was done. But then ends with laughter b/c he's like... don't they get how stupid it is to segregate blind kids? hahahaha!
p. 29 This story of him staying at the school for Christmas cause his mom didn't have money to send for him. Wow.

p. 33 he goes through the details of all the things his mother taught like cooking (despite burning grease) and mopping the floor properly. The point was that everyone gets a little burnt and wood chopping was tough no matter if you could see or not.

p. 37 Music lessons at the blind school included more the classics. It's fascinating to think of RC playing Chopin, but there it is. I would love to have seen/heard him.

p. 39 - They were apparently naughty kids. Puberty does not skip the blind. Wow. TMI.

p. 60 I had no idea these formative years of RC were in my stopping ground of Tampa. Will have to look for that.

p. 70 This whole idea that as soon as he had money, he spent it on records or a record player to further get into his craft. People don't become great by accident. this is their thing.

p. 81 - This story about him moving to Seattle, going to a club, he's too young to play at, convincing the bouncer and then showing his thing. Wow.

p. 85 - That's crazy. I forgot when I watched the Q. Jones documentary they knew each other. Crazy little story here on how they met in Seattle.

Dude.. how he tells love stories, where he loves them, but he's still sleeping around. Man.... tough...
p. 104 - This story about the white and black side of the ocean at Myrtle Beach. Funny.

p. 105 - It's only from people reading him signs that he realized that jews might also have it bad. His point is that as a blind person, he could not see a lot of the way racism was being directed at him.

p. 121 - They got pulled over for nothing and then he's got to find a way back when they take his driver in to haze him.

p. 129 - "In the early days, many of th divees where we had gigs were just too rough to tame. All you coudl do was play and pray." This reminds me of that scene in the blues brothers. Funny.

p. 136 - He talks about seeing people through their skin. "Being distracted by shading or coloring is stupid. It gets in the way. It's something I just can't see."
p. 150 He's talking about drugs. There was some MJ that wasn't even there's but they all get pulled into the police. Ultimately they are let off, b/c no one can prove who's MJ it is, but the papers go nuts. B/c he's blind, they presume someone is feeding him drugs, so it never falls on him, it falls on everyone else which he hated.

p. 154 - The story about why he stops playing clubs is funny, where the piano doesn't even work half the time and he has to play his way out of how bad the instrument is.

p. 206 - The story of how he quits Heroin given not being there for his son.

p. 215 - The people he loves, Arethra, Babs, etc. Fascinating to hear him talk about them and the stuff they do off stage/recording.

p. 224 - "Europeans are more serious about black music than we are. They study it and they know it."

p. 231 - He talks about the efficiencies of America (my word) vs. Latin America and Europe.

p. 262 he talks about how kids in school used to pray to God to let them see. He'd laugh and say fools. you ought to just play the hand you're dealt. I love this.
Profile Image for Lady-R.
219 reviews107 followers
January 31, 2020
Ray Charles nos habla de su vida y de su carrera, sin pelos en la lengua y tocando todos los temas posibles, lo bonito y lo controvertido, lo bueno y lo malo que ha vivido. Y lo hace de una forma entretenida y cercana.

A lo largo de sus páginas habla de la pobreza que vivió de niño, la pobreza del sur de USA, su educación en un colegio para ciegos, la segregación y de la toma de consciencia sobre ello cuando ya era mayor, del racismo policial, de sexo, de amor, de su relación con las drogas, de su forma de entender la vida y sobre todo, de música. El libro es un canto al amor por hacer música, de como la música es un órgano vital más para él, y además un genial documento de como era la vida de los músicos en esa época.

Profile Image for Ivan.
4 reviews
April 13, 2010
This is the most honest and down-to-earth book I have ever read and one of the most humanistic and uplifting stories of all, not just biographies. If you are a great admirer of Ray's supernatural musical talent, you will be amazed and deeply satisfied by his equally great gift of story-telling and you will appreciate his music even more after you get an insight into his unbelievable life.

But even if you are not familiar with Ray's enormous contribution to contemporary Western culture and music, you will still find plenty of gems to take away with you from this book. Ray Charles' story is a great testament to the resilience and power of the human nature, but it is also a great reminder of all those things we all take for granted in our daily lives. It teaches some of the greatest and best of life's lessons, without even attempting to do so. A must-read!
Profile Image for Dawn Lennon.
Author 1 book27 followers
August 30, 2018
Once again David Ritz gives voice to another iconic musician in the autobiography he wrote of, for, and with Ray Charles. This book is without a doubt the voice of Brother Ray along with his view of himself, his music, the industry, society, and life that only Ray could see clearly through eyes without sight.

Ray's life was unique in so many ways, not only because he lost his sight but because of his fierce drive to, in all ways, be himself-- to be Ray. He was a man of many dimensions while at the same time being singular. He liked to be by himself, he loved women, and he held steadfast to his principles. Ray was a musical icon and no saint, but someone who always tried to be a good person.

Ray holds nothing back in this book. You hear him and sometimes shudder at the language he uses. You feel him and at times marvel at the insights he shares. You become amazed at how unstoppable he was, how fearless while being careful, and how extraordinary were his musical gifts. How can a man, sighted or not, simply sit in a room and call out the notes for every instrument in his band as he narrates a new arrangment for one of his songs?

Ray's story is another beautiful chapter in the saga of the great men of the blues who hear more than most of the messages in all music. Ray's love of gospel, jazz, the American songbook, and the sounds of the age remain an inspiration for the rest of us.
Profile Image for NON.
558 reviews188 followers
April 27, 2018
“It's me and I like me.” -Ray Charles

Ray is one real musician; you can hardly find that nowadays, not anymore. The life he lived was extraordinary–especially that he was blind–and he takes the readers in one heck of explorative ride. He holds nothing back and tells about everything he endured with obvious ease as if he made peace with his challenging past.

Personally, I don't necessarily identify with his views on different matters but I've found him to be an impressive man, and the fact that he was his own person against all odds is quite respectable. The way he valued and cared for himself, and the interesting relationship he had with his strong mother is both admirable and amusing. It's notable that Ray Charles had a distinguishing compelling sense of humor that made me laugh quite often. I recommend the audio-book because the narrator, Andrew Barns, who I fell in love with his reading made my journey with this book a splendid one.

All in all, Brother Ray is one of the best autobiographies out there despite the fact I'm no fan of David Ritz due to his tendencies to focus heavily on scandalizing aspects that taints his subjects using shock value more often than not.
Profile Image for Byron.
Author 9 books98 followers
May 3, 2016
A while back, I jokingly declared that I wouldn't be reading any more as-told-to autobiographies, but what I can say. I like reading books about musicians.

I saw this on a shelf and figured I might have a look, because I know Ray Charles used to have a hardcore drug problem, and also, perhaps most importantly was a brilliant musician. Come to find out, this might be one of the best autobiographies by a musician. It might be the best one I've read, and I've read quite a few. It came out way TF back in '78, and it must have been a big deal back then, but who knows. No one who was alive back then would be able to remember.

All of the key plots points ended up in the movie from the mid '00s, but this is still worth checking out because it goes into a lot more details about things like, how Ray Charles got around as a blind person, the ridonkulous number of chicks he used to bang, plus the multiple paternity suits, and his surprisingly modern (possibly still ahead his time) views on things like the drug war, race relations and what have you.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,880 reviews7 followers
June 30, 2015
This was a little grittier than some autobiographies. He owned up to it all with no regrets. He embraced the hippie attitudes about drugs and free love. He wasn't driven by fame and fortune. I got the impression that musicwas something he did because he loved it and managed to make a great living at it.

What I really liked about this particular autobiography was his tenacious attitude when he put his mind to something. Once he decided something, it was as good as done, even when he kicked his heroin habit. He also never considered himself handicapped. In this book, you'd never know he was blind, except for the brief part at the beginning when he told how he went blind. He never brought up how it hindered him, and that is probably because he never let it.

This was definitely written in the 70's with all the talk about 'bread' and 'cats'. I found that a little annoying, but by the end it was more humorous.

Profile Image for M. .
159 reviews51 followers
September 30, 2014
The was the an incredible biography told in Ray Charles's own voice.

His voice is direct, raunchy, and after several chapters you will feel that you are in his world. Some would not understand, but keep reading and your heart and soul will be captured by the shear incredible life this musician lived to inspire, enrich the world with his presence.

This is the way a biography should be complied, leaving their history for all to see without covering up to save face.

There are no hard question just the truth, because Ray is going to make it do, what it do baby!
Profile Image for Man O'neal.
61 reviews2 followers
July 26, 2012
This is what the title says it is: Ray Charles' Own Story. It is interesting enough, and this combined with the easy writing style that comes with many autobiographies makes it a very enjoyable read. I will say that I didn't find myself deeply engaged in any of the pages. I simply found it pleasant and amusing. Nothing special, but good. On a side note, if you saw the movie than this book will probably be much less rewarding to you.
Profile Image for Jill Edmondson.
Author 7 books160 followers
March 18, 2014
Full speed ahead!!! This was terrific! It felt like Ray was in my living room having a chat with me. I've never seen the biopic, and didn't know much about the man, but - WOW! - quite the life he led! He tells his story with respect and fondness, and with a healthy dose of self-reflection. His "can-do" attitude and his refusal to be pitied or to wallow in bitterness are inspiring. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Patricia.
984 reviews24 followers
February 24, 2017
I am rating this book three stars because I'm turned off by how bigheaded male musicians seem to be according to the autobiographies I've read so far. I'm interested enough to read a few more to see if there are more like that but it doesn't make me like them as people.
Profile Image for Eric.
3,474 reviews21 followers
May 28, 2019
I think the ghost writer, David Ritz, has done us all a huge service by capturing this memoir of Ray Charles. I had usually enjoyed Ray Charles' music, although I would not say he was a favorite musician. Having listened to the work I think my assessment fit with the character I had drawn in my mind of the artist. Ray Charles was always his own man, and seemed never to have taken any guff from anyone. It was very easy throughout the work to forget that this man was blind from an early age, and never seemed to have worn the mantle of "handicapped." His view of race relations in America appear to have formed later in his life, and reflect, I think, more of the prevailing culture's view than Charles' own. He accepted people as they were, and I can't help but wonder if in this area his blindness worked to his advantage.

Brother Ray was, for quite some time, a drug addict who managed to quite readily kick the habit when it seemed necessary. He admits in later life that he is really not sure how many children he may have fathered, and that feature of his life in music gave me some pause. He was married three times and convincingly conveys that he really loved his wives - even as he seems to have blithely felt that bedding other ladies was well within his rights. His spiritual life seems to have been a bit of a muddle in that he says he always believed in God, but wondered why the Jews of Jesus time did not see Jesus as Messiah. I think some later writings of Ritz may have had the ghost writer projecting onto his principal a spiritual maturation beyond that which Ray may have allowed.

All in all, well worth the time spent listening.
Profile Image for Tim Schneider.
382 reviews3 followers
June 16, 2019
I'm always pretty iffy on these "as told to" type books. But I'm a big fan of Ray Charles and he's clearly lead an interesting life. And Ritz has done straight bios that have been well done. So when I was struggling with a bit of reader's block I decided to give it a whirl. And I'm pretty glad I did. Charles doesn't hold back about his life and the way he lead it. He doesn't shy away from his womanizing or his drug use. He cops to being an absentee Dad to his various children. He acknowledges his inspirations and, I think, downplays his own innovations and, honestly, his genius when it comes to fundamentally changing music.

So as a autobiography this is a step above most. Charles comes across as not pulling a lot of punches. So if you're interested in the man and his music this is probably a good place to go. Which isn't something I say about a lot of autobiographies. They tend to be sanitized to the point that I really want an objective biography. Not that I'd be opposed to one here, but I don't think it's necessary in this case.

I'll also add that one of the things I love about reading about music and/or musicians is the opportunity to delve back into the catalog of songs covered in the books. In this case I got the opportunity to delve into some of Charles' big influences (Nat King Cole, Charles Brown) as well as Charles' own work. That probably did focus a bit too much on his Atlantic output along with Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (one of my picks for top ten albums of all time) but that's okay.
Profile Image for Theresa.
252 reviews3 followers
May 29, 2017
Excellent story. Ray Charles was a gifted musician and being blind made his road to success harder...he succeeded against all odds. His mom was amazing and she truly was the force that made it possible. When she knew that he was going blind she rose to the challenge with love and determination to create a man that could stand on his own to feet alone...a man of confidence. I saw the movie first and it was so good, I had to read the book. One of my favorite songs by him is Georgia. Man, that song just touches my soul...
Profile Image for Emma McCarthy.
78 reviews2 followers
February 20, 2022
i really wanted to like this one, but i had a hard time appreciating the content the author actually chose to write about (less about his music and his life and more about his sexual relationships, uhh??), and even a harder time with the word "pussy" used over 30 times in reference to both sex and women.

sure, maybe it was a different time. but the sentiment is timeless.

with that said, there were some super sweet prose sprinkled in this that i couldn't ignore, and i'm a sucker for biographies of all shapes and sizes. so i won't call it a complete disaster.
15 reviews
May 24, 2013
After reading a few musical autobiographies, one starts noticing a fair bit of repetition: Artist grows up poor, artist find music, artist struggles, artist perseveres, artist takes drugs and sleeps around. artist grows up.
Maybe i've read too many books in this genre. It is a good read, but nothing mind-blowing
Profile Image for Dawn Todhunter.
201 reviews4 followers
February 28, 2019
Didn't finish. His story is amazing and I wish I could hear it all. I've just had my fill of his cavalier attitude toward women. Mr. Kiss and Tell. And to be honest, I just couldn't stomach another recounting of how much p*ssy he got.
1 review
January 12, 2010
I learned so much about the triles and tribulations about this book so difficult to understand the way ray charles lived.
Profile Image for Donna Kremer.
227 reviews3 followers
April 25, 2020
I couldn’t finish this book. Every place, date, person, event, song, and fuck that Ray Charles ever had, was, or knew was way more than I cared to know.
Profile Image for Joe Kraus.
Author 7 books95 followers
September 10, 2022
I have somewhat mixed feelings about Ray Charles, and I have mixed feelings about that.

For starters, I have to credit “Brother Ray” with representing a kind of cool throughout my childhood. The whole neighborhood enjoyed “Hit the Road, Jack,” and I think there was always a sense that there was something authentic about him – something accessible even to our sheltered small Ohio world.

That said, I’ve always been bothered by the treacly strings that come in on some of his mid-career work. As I got a bit savvier – or so I liked to think – I assumed that was the work of producers who were trying to tame him, people who thought he might work better for a white audience if he tamed the rawness of the stuff that I’d first heard. (Of course, I didn’t hear the real early stuff until much later.)

It’s striking, then, to hear Charles declare here that those strings, and that dulling of his original edge, came at his own direction. “Song for You,” for instance, is just easy listening with an occasional redeeming growl. Coming back to listen again to something like “Georgia on My Mind,” I guess I’m less troubled by it, but it feels like an echo of what made him memorable – something like the way I mostly enjoy Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World” even though I know the Hot Five and Hot Seven sessions of a couple decades earlier are where the real genius lies.

Still, there’s a part of me that wants to think of Charles as an American hero, a guy who overcame his blindness to make memorable music and stand as a proud Black man in the years leading up to the Civil Rights era. He seemed, in other words, a shorthand figure for “cool.”

Parts of this clearly dated memoir show him still as cool. This is moving when he describes his childhood in Florida, and it’s consistently interesting when he talks about technical aspects of the music. He’s a trained musician but also an intuitive one, and, as someone who isn’t really either, it’s a great glimpse into where great music can sometimes come from.

Other parts of this show him trying to be ‘cool.’ It might have meant something in its mid-1970s original publication to have him offer uninhibited takes on sex. He’s cool with homosexuality. He thinks it’s great when guys go down on women. He wants to please his lovers.

Good for him, I say.

But the other side of that coin is a disturbing sense of his treating women as almost interchangeable. He talks of some of his great love affairs – and about many casual ones – but he never shows remorse about his serial sleeping around. He assumes a willingness on the part of women, and no doubt he encountered it, but he then shows a refusal to be obligated. He’s almost amused that he has children with several different women. When a couple file paternity suits, he’s downright insulted. He’ll support the children, he says, but he won’t pay more than he thinks is fair. He’s not a bank, he insists, and he admits he adopted a calculated coldness to the women who asked for more.

Couple that with the fact that this perhaps a third longer than it needs to be – padded with various soft-baked ideas about how government might function better or how Christianity is both unpersuasive but sentimentally comforting – and I have to call it something of a disappointment. Two-and-a-half stars, I’d have to give as a bottom line.

There are definitely elements worth preserving here, but – as I realize I feel about Charles’s music in general – it’s a mixed result.
Profile Image for Elaine.
32 reviews20 followers
September 25, 2020
I feel like I've met Ray Charles. Pretty much every sentence in this autobiography comes across as deeply authentic. Ray Charles has no shame, no desire to create an image or say anything performative. He speaks with complete candor about his relationship with drugs, his relationship with women, and his relationship with other musicians, even when it puts him in an unfavorable light.

There is no attempt to water down his vocabulary, nor any attempt to make it more dramatic. Everything about his tone is casual. In a section about his childhood, he will nonchalantly reference circle jerks, or in a chapter about his traveling, he will speak of how he discovered oral sex. And it's no big deal, just a dude sitting down and telling you his life story. I've been reading a good number of biographies recently, and striking this tone of conversational authenticity is hard.

There are some wild things in this book. For example, Ray used to ride his bike around town, going full speed up and down hills, and he never got into a scrape. The man even bought and drove a car, which still confuses me a bit. He randomly decided to move to Seattle, simply because it was the city furthest away from Florida. Ray Charles is a traveler through and through, and reading about his way of life filled me with the urge to get up right now and go someplace unknown.
Profile Image for Andrew Neveils.
237 reviews15 followers
August 31, 2019
Having seen the biopic film “Ray” several times, I thought this might be redundant. I found out that this autobiography isn’t listed as the source material for the film, so I was eager to dive in and find out what really happened in Ray Charles’ life.

The movie got plenty of things right, even if the interpretation was wrong. The movie got plenty of things wrong, as well.

Such is often the case, the book was better than the movie. Ray’s voice comes through so clear, his mannerisms so evident, and his lyricism quite punctuated throughout that I thought I was hearing him the entire time. Much praise is due to David Ritz, the ghostwriter, for capturing Ray’s spirit.

What I thought was missing was perhaps more depth and details on his marriages, especially his marriage with B. As someone who was so special and important to him, she’s not mentioned much beyond being a great love of his and the mother of several of his children. You learn quite a bit about Ray’s affairs, but not much about his marriage to B. Perhaps she asked him to leave her out, who knows. It certainly seems as though Ray holds back in that department, though.
Profile Image for Libbie George.
234 reviews
May 23, 2022
I'm giving this book four stars because I 1) can't imagine ghost writing for Ray Charles. 2) I've started listening to nothing but Ray Charles 3) there's that whole "how to have a sex party" chapter, which had to be weird to write.
I thought it was well written, even though RC life was a hot mess. I learned a bit about him and about the Big Band generation. I learned way too much about who he shared his bed with, and EXACTLY HOW he shared it...I could have done without that. Doesn't really have much to do with his music, but there it is.
Note: I wasn't aware this book was published in the 70's. The Afterward is written more recently.
Profile Image for Karen T.
295 reviews2 followers
February 21, 2022
I enjoy a good autobiography. I must say this is one of the most brutally honest ones I have “read.” (I actually listened to it on Audible and the narrator was fantastic!) Ray uses very honest and frank language regarding drugs & women. He uses the word “pussy” often as well as some more explicit descriptions, so if you don’t like to read books with cursing or foul language then you should avoid reading this one. I really got a much deeper insight into Ray Charles and feel like I know who he was after reading this memoir.
Profile Image for Jonathan Reynoso.
15 reviews1 follower
September 10, 2018
Ray takes us on a journey of his life starting from his childhood. The challenges he met as a blind black man in the 40s, 50s, and 60s was nothing short of amazing. He is honest about everything - including things I didn’t think I’d read in this book. This entire book is from the musician’s perspective. So, he often goes on rants and tangents. However, Ray keeps it somewhat fresh from page to page, offering insight on politics, race, sex, religion, and his favorites singers and songs.
Profile Image for Vanyo666.
271 reviews
July 13, 2021
A very explicit tale told with an absolutely believable voice, which I think is the great merit of the co-writer, letting RC speak through the pages. In the epilogue he explains how they achieved this through extensive revision.

Ray minces no words and does not gild the pill, and comes like a right bastard very often, relying on absolute honesty to remain likeable. But sometimes he is too much of a man of his times, pre-aids, pre-cancellation, pre so much, that he feels like a dinosaur.
Profile Image for Ian Schultz.
50 reviews
June 1, 2020
As a big Ray Charles fan, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, So many stories of his are packed in to this. We even get small glimpses of Ray's political and spiritual philosophy. This is an autobiography done right. I'm only giving it 4 stars because the Kindle version is plagued with typos.
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