Thursday, June 10, 2004

Brother Ray

Haven't posted recently because I don't have a thing to say about Ronald Reagan. It's not that I'm a hater - he was a better president than Bush, Bush, or Nixon, which puts him in the top half over the last 40 years. Reykjavik good, Armageddon bad. Whatever. But it feels like he's been dead for a long, long time now - Alzheimer's is one of the few horrors that actually does seem worse than death - deprived of memory and personality, are you even you in any sense that matters? I find myself feeling relief on behalf of Nancy Reagan, that next week she will have her life back. I hear she may use it campaigning for stem cell research.

But now I'm afraid his post-timely passing will overshadow the truly heartbreaking loss of another great American. To my great sorrow, I learned a few minutes ago that the great, great Ray Charles died this afternoon. Ray embodied the American Dream and subverted it - going from blind orphan to cultural icon by putting lyrics of sexual longing to gospel music. He appealed to nation divided by race, region and politics by telling us that the thing we have in common is pain, longing, loneliness (and lust, and the love of a good party).

Tony and I were lucky enough to catch Brother Ray at Chicago's House of Blues a couple years back. He looked kind of frail, but his voice was smooth as silk - it wasn't a rehash of the hits for the fogies, except for "Georgia" he played songs I'd never heard, and he really knocked the shit out of them. Ray's loss is a great loss for all of us because every day he lived meant more great music.

In the place of dead politicians, many countries have put great poets and artists on their money. The saddest thing about the Euro is the loss of the James Joyce ten pound note in Ireland, I weep for it still . . . All this talk about putting Reagan on the money is preposterous, especially since he would have hated the idea. Instead, let's honor great Americans instead of politician - at least a third of the population hates even the most popular politican, anyway. So my proposal is this - the new 20's are an ugly failure, lets drop Andy altogether and put Ray Charles on the $20 bill.
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