Title: Brother Ray
Author: Ray Charles and David Ritz
Page Count/Review Word Count: 342
Brother Ray is the true story of Ray Charles’ early life and career, and it makes for a fascinating read. Interestingly, when you consider that the copy that I own was written and released in the 1970s, it stands up well to the test of time, and if anything much of it is even more relevant today. For example, as a blind, black man who lived and worked during a time when segregation was still a thing, he talks about how racism makes no sense. He couldn’t see it, which meant that he couldn’t understand why it should make a blind bit of difference. There was also a story of when he went swimming – because he was crazy and used to drive cars and buy heroin while blind – and almost accidentally swam across the divider and into the whites only beach.
Now, I’d love to say that I’m a big Ray Charles fan, but the truth is that while I’m sure I’m familiar with a lot of his work, I’m not much more than a casual listener. But with this book, that doesn’t really matter. If you like music, you’re going to like reading Ray’s story, because his life and his outlook are so influenced by the music he listened to and created.
Another thing worth noting here is the skill shown by David Ritz in pulling the book together. It was created using a series of interviews and informal chats between the two men, and Charles was given the opportunity to review braille printouts so that he could advise on changes and make sure that it was all just right. And because of this, the whole story is told in Ray’s actual voice – I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard the man talk, but I can picture what he must have sounded like just from the writing. That’s the sign of good writing, and it makes the story sweeter.