America was on people’s minds: Don McLean with "American Pie" and there was even a band named America. Our nation was at war in Vietnam; we had landed on the moon. African-Americans were emboldened and encouraged by the progress they were achieving.
The album A Message From the People, produced by Ray and recorded at his RPM International Studio, contained a song that did not chart at the time, but went on to become one of his best loved recordings: "America the Beautiful." He would perform it countless times on TV and in live concert for the rest of his life.
"Mr. Charles wanted A Message From the People to include 'America the Beautiful' because of his tremendous love for our country," stated Valerie Ervin, President of the Ray Charles Foundation. "Throughout his career he performed 'America' at a Super Bowl, a World Series game and for seven U.S. Presidents," she added.
On May 5th, Concord Records will reissue, in its entirety, this landmark album for the first time on CD and digital download as part of its extensive reissue program of Ray Charles’s post-1960 catalog which, as part of his deal with ABC-Paramount Records, was owned and controlled by Ray himself. A Message From the People is the first in a series of albums to be reissued by Concord, which will include his classics Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music, Volumes 1 and 2; The Genius Hits the Road and Genius + Soul = Jazz, among others.
For A Message From the People, Ray chose some of the world’s finest musicians including Freddie Hubbard, Ray Brown and Jean "Toots" Thielemans. The charts were written by his old friends Quincy Jones and Sid Feller, plus TV soundtrack meister Mike Post.
The songs Ray selected include "Lift Every Voice and Sing," also known as the Black National Anthem; Dion DiMucci’s hit, "Abraham, Martin and John"; "Stevie Wonder’s plea for brotherly love, "Heaven Help Us All"; "John Denver’s loving ode to America’s heartland, "Take Me Home, Country Roads"; and Melanie’s "Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma," which was also a hit single for Ray.
Ray even came up with the idea for the album’s cover featuring the faces of Abe Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King and Jack and Bobby Kennedy, and commissioned artist Al Willis to bring it to fruition.
As of April 7, the entire post-1960 catalog of Ray Charles classic recordings became available for digital download for the first time ever. These are some of America’s most cherished and requested recordings by America’s greatest artist of the second half of the 20th century. Included are such iconic tracks as the #1 hits "Georgia on My Mind," "Hit the Road Jack," "One Mint Julep," "I Can’t Stop Loving You," "Unchain My Heart," "You Are My Sunshine," "Let’s Go Get Stoned," as well as "Busted," "You Don’t Know Me," "Together Again," and many more.