Jacob Haller (jwgh) wrote,
Jacob Haller
jwgh

Ray

Yesterday I saw the movie Ray (about Ray Charles) with a couple of friends. It was sort of TV movieish, but I thought Jamie Foxx's performance was good, and I liked the scenes in which he wrote or recorded music ('What'd I Say', 'I Believe To My Soul') a lot and found them strangely touching even if they didn't always ring completely true.

One thing I found interesting was the treatment of the music, in particular those with sexist lyrics. The examples I remember:

* The first soul song he recorded (according to the movie, and I believe it got it right) was 'I've Got A Woman', which begins something like:
I've got a woman way over town
She's good to me, yes I have
I've got a woman now way over town
Good to me, oh yeah
She gives me money when I'm in need
She's a kind of a friend in need
Said I've got a woman way 'cross town
Good to me, yes I have
and that is all in the movie. What I'm pretty sure wasn't in the movie was these lyrics, which come later on after the saxophone solo:
She's there to love me both day and night
Never grumbles or fusses, always treats me right
Never runs in the streets, leaving me alone
She knows her place, now, 's right there now in her home
...which, you know, there aren't a whole lot of songs written these days that come out and say that a woman's place is in the home.

I didn't really notice this at the time that that song was played in the movie, because the issue being looked at at that point was how shocked people were by the blasphemy of combining gospel music and sexuality in this sort of way, and the lyrics above don't show up until fairly late in the song anyway, and it's difficult to get away with playing an entire pop song in a movie without something interrupting. So I probably wouldn't have even thought about this if the treatment of the song I Believe To My Soul didn't bring it out.

I Believe To My Soul is an amazing performance and an amazing recording: it is sung with great power and expressiveness with complete seriousness, and it really sucks me in when I listen to it, so I think to myself: 'Yes, this is really what someone like this is like' -- and this despite the fact that the lyrics themselves wouldn't necessarily lend themselves to that. It's also a very creepy, because the emotions that are expressed are completely negative: sadness, and anger, and violence. I decided that I wanted to start performing it myself, and one of the things that I have had to struggle with (apart from the basic issue of how to cover a Ray Charles song without making a total ass of oneself) is how to deal with the lyrics, especially the second verse ... and so far I haven't come up with a better way to deal with it than just singing them and trusting that the audience will understand that I am, and they are supposed to be, totally creeped out by it.

So. How the movie handles this song is as follows. Ray and the Raylettes are in the studio recording the song, and they get through the first verse, which goes:
One of these days, and it won't be long
You gonna look for me and I'll be gone
I believe
Yes I believe right now
I believe to my soul somebody's trying to make a fool of me.
But one of the Raylettes is drunk and isn't singing properly, so Ray kicks them all out and makes use of the studio's new eight-track recorded to record the female parts himself. So you hear Ray singing the tenor, alto, and soprano parts, and then you hear the third verse of the song:
Last night you were sleeping, and I heard you say:
'Ooooh, Johnny' when you know my name is Ray.
I believe
Yes I believe right now
I believe to my sould somebody's trying to make a fool of me.
So what's the second verse that gets left out? Not to keep you in suspense, it's:
You're walking 'round with your head so hard
I think I'm gonna have to use my rod
I believe
Yes I believe right now
I believe to my sould somebody's trying to make a fool of me.
So what's going on here? I'm not sure if the incident described actually happened or not (I just listened to the recording again to see if I could believe that the backing vocals are actually sung by Ray, and I guess it could be, although I'm a bit skeptical). If it's true then I guess that it's reasonable to include it in the movie as an example of Ray's astonishing musical ability. If it isn't then it seems like it would have been invented to give an excuse for skipping over the objectionable second verse, which doesn't seem right to me.
Tags: gender, movies, music
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