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Ray Charles On My Mind

Reflecting on the loss of one of the 20th century’s greatest musicians.

by Dr. Spin
June 14, 2004

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A Mitsubishi commercial from 2003/2004 with footage (black and white I think) of some sporty-type vehicle moving swiftly along a curving road... the music is strictly instrumental with licks from a guitar and a really driving bass-line. Kind help please!

Dear Car Nut,

Unfortunately, your question doesn’t give me much to go on. If I knew at least which Mitsubishi model you were talking about, I could narrow it down. Perhaps if you go on to Mitsubishi Motors website and recognize the car, you can do a Google search for “Mitsubishi commercial music (car name)” and find it.

* * *

Dr. Spin could not call himself a true music fan if he did not acknowledge the passing of Ray Charles last Thursday. Terms like “genius” and “great” are thrown around a lot in the music world, but to no one do these terms apply better than Ray Charles. His talent is unquestionable, his influence immeasurable. Had Ray Charles simply been an R&B artist, he still would have left a huge impact. Yet, Charles’ talent led him to all forms of music, even Country & Western. And Charles not only crossed every genre, but also performed in each genre well.

Despite being a giant in the music world, Charles still carried an air of humility and always seemed happy just to entertain a crowd. While many people will remember his music, my fondest memories are of Ray Charles the actor, both times poking fun at his blindness. The first is his appearance in “The Blues Brothers,” where Charles had a memorable cameo number as a blind music storeowner. Despite being blind, Charles’ character still has the ability to pinpoint several warning shots at a would-be shoplifter, trying to steal a guitar.

My second favorite moment was when Charles acted as a “spokesperson” for Canon cameras (“So easy, anyone can use them!) At the conclusion of the commercial, Charles states, “I even showed my good friend [fellow blind pianist] George Shearing how to use it!”

Charles had a sense of humor about his handicap that made him all the more endearing. The way he rocked side to side when he played made him easy to imitate, but imitation was always done in admiration. Charles ability to make a piano or keyboard dance, however, could rarely be imitated. You can’t think of one Ray Charles song without thinking of another, and then another, and then another. And you begin to realize how remarkable a musician like Ray Charles was.

People like to speculate what music will be remembered a hundred years from now. Unless society has totally fallen apart, in 2100, people will be at a museum exhibit of music & pop culture from the 20th century and Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” will come over the speaker. And one by one, the people will close their eyes, pretend to play the keyboard, and slowly rock side to side.

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