I just now finished watching Ray, the movie biopic about Ray Charles starring Jamie Foxx. It came out in 2004 but I somehow managed not to see it until tonight after renting it on iTunes. It would seem, as a general rule, that movie biopics always leave me feeling blue. Sometimes I can’t quite say why, but in Ray’s case the obvious things to point out would be the heroin addiction and the womanizing. I knew about all that beforehand and besides, when talking about musicians those are pretty standard vices, but it somehow affected me more this time. Something to do with the fact that he was a legend to me before my baby teeth starting falling out. Seeing this man, a musical genius at grips with such negative influences didn’t inspire in me a judgmental attitude so much as pity, which is one emotion I don’t do well. I think Jamie Foxx well deserved the Oscar he got playing for this role. It can’t have been easy to act with his eyes closed during the whole movie, but what must have helped him greatly as an actor were Ray Charles’ continual tics and twiches and general physical awkwardness, otherwise Foxx wouldn’t have had much to go on. Whatever the case may be, Foxx did it convincigly and well. I couldn’t suspend disbelief enough to forget it was Jamie Foxx acting, maybe because Foxx himself is such an accomplished singer and actor, but it didn’t prevent me from getting into the story.
Maybe what leaves me sad, ultimately, is the reminder that yet another legendary talent I grew up with is now gone forever. I remember one of the times he came to Montreal, for the Jazz Fest in the summer of 2000. I had gotten ticket for my dad and me, knowing that my dad had always liked Ray Charles and figuring it was a nice gift for his 60th birthday. Sadly, I don’t remember much of the concert. I was mostly upset that we weren’t closer to the stage and so far from the action. I do recall that the steak dinner we had afterwards, at Moishe’s famous steak house was out of this world. Makes me hungry just thinking about it.
Photograph of Ray Charles by Howard Moorehead