Me & Brother Ray – Part 4: Signifying

Ray-plane2Below is PART 4 of the “Me and Brother Ray” series.  Go to Part 1 to read more about the series concept.

“It is only in his music that the American Negro has been able to tell his story,” wrote James Baldwin in a great essay called “Many Thousands Gone.”  But Baldwin says this telling is only possible because Americans approach black music with a “protective sentimentality” that prevents them from truly understanding that story, a story that’s too horrible and too moving for them to comprehend.  If, however, you can learn to read the signs—understand what the music is signifying—that story, at least its outlines, begins to stand out boldly.  So Nat Cole’s great song “Mona Lisa” begins to signify something more than a reverie about a painting, or the woman behind it.  And so does Ray Charles’ great rendition of Don Walker’s country song “You Don’t Know Me.”

Wait.  Did I say “country song”?  Ray Charles?  Listen below.

 Go to the “Me & Brother Ray” lead post for links to all other episodes.

 Go to the main Ray Charles post which lists All Things Ray on this site.

Go to the Teaching Diversity main page.

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Me & Brother Ray – Part 2: The Genius Hits the Road

Ray Charles on the busBelow is Part 2 of the 5-part video/lecture series “Me & Brother Ray.”  Read the Part 1 post for a fuller explanation of the whole series.  Ray Charles was of enormous importance not only to American culture, but to me as well—which explains the series title a little.  He led me to my core concerns as a professor and also led me, as well as thousands of other minorities, to insights about our relationship to America.

This part focuses on The Genius Hits the Road, his first album for ABC Paramount, the company he went to after his ground-breaking work at Atlantic records.  You can read a full review of that album Here, but for now please take a look and listen to Part 2 below. The album contained the iconic “Georgia on My Mind,” and its other numbers—strange and unsatisfying as they were—combined with “Georgia” to announce Charles’ musical and cultural intentions, intentions which wouldn’t become clear for another 15 years.

 Go to the “Me & Brother Ray” lead post for links to all other episodes.

 Go to the main Ray Charles post which lists All Things Ray on this site.

Go to the Teaching Diversity main page.

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Me and Brother Ray – Part 1: Reverse Integrations

Ray Charles Rock and Roll Hall of Fame pictureThis is the lead post for a series of five video lectures on Ray Charles…on me and Brother Ray, I should say.  Not that I’ve ever met him personally—except to see him in concert—but Ray Charles, a titanic figure in American culture, has also figured titanically in one small American life: mine.  Listen and watch Part One below.

Not only did Ray Charles and his music lead me to the core issues of my academic life as a professor, it also helped me to understand how minority people like me and millions of others could think about integration, about how integration isn’t just about assimilating into American culture, but also re-making it ourselves from both outside-in and inside out, so much so that we can also speak about American culture integrating into us.

The entire series should be considered one piece not only dealing with issues of music and race and culture, but also with a way of writing that integrates personal history with cultural and social analysis.  The five parts below, then, belong to one, entire, five-part essay, each part moving back and forth between history, analysis, and personal narrative.  Though thoroughly researched and already presented in several venues, including academic conferences, it departs from the usual conventions of academic or college research papers.  I have taken to assigning this type of essay to my students over that traditional, linear, academic research paper whenever I can—which seems to happen more and more.  I present this video “essay” here partly because, though I consider it an important example of the kind of writing I want students to do—and feel free to do—lack of class time often has me slighting, rushing, even skipping this presentation.

—Links go live as episodes become available—

  • Me & Brother Ray – Part 1: Reverse Integrations (IT’S BELOW)
  • Me & Brother Ray – Part 2: The Genius Hits the Road
  • Me & Brother Ray – Part 3: Tell the Truth
  • Me & Brother Ray – Part 4: Signifying
  • Me & Brother Ray – Part 5: A Message from the People
  • Watch the full-length “lecture” containing all five parts.

Go to the Teaching Diversity main page

Go to the main Ray Charles post, which lists all things Ray on this site.

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