Friday, June 7, 2013

When life gets you down, shout "Ray Charles!"

Ray Charles! No, for real. 

I can't remember the performer, and I can't find it online. Might've been Tom Jones.

But, in the early 80s, a musician performing on Late Night with David Letterman, shouted "Ray Charles" in the middle of a song, apropros of nothing (Note: years later, Taylor Hicks would shout "Soul Patrol" on American Idol to diminished returns).

Of course, Dave and Paul made light of it the next night and wondered aloud why more performers don't yell "Ray Charles" in the middle of songs.

A light went on in my teenage brain. "Why don't more people just yell Ray Charles in general?" I asked myself.

So, for the better part of a decade, I'd yell "Ray Charles" at concerts. In addition to just making you feel better when you do it, I discovered that different people react differently to the shout-out:

  • The first time I tried it was at Broadways, the former (and awesome) alternative bar in the Fort Garry Hotel. Canadian singer Dianne Heatherington was playing, and she said, "I love Ray Charles. And, you know, we should be playing some Ray Charles in our set." Success!
  • I shouted it again at Love and Rockets, and the normally sullen David J. perked up and played a couple of bass notes, which - I guess - was probably some bassline from a Ray Charles song that only he could recognize.  
  • Most artists would say something along the line of "Ray Charles is a musical genius" - sometimes with a little "you'd better not be making fun of him" edge for good measure. 
  • Jann Arden took the minimalist approach and said nothing. 

I wondered, "When I shout "Ray Charles," is it a tribute? Request? Ice breaker? Conversation starter? Joke? Comparison? Question? Dare? Bet? Challenge? Contest? Exhibition? Competition? Celebration?"

Of course, it was all of these things.

So, now when I'm in the classroom, at a bank, waiting for a light to change, or sitting in a darkened theatre during a quiet moment in the film, I yell, "Ray Charles!" and make the world a better place one shout-out at a time.

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