Ray Charles: 7 country songs in honor of his birthday

Ray Charles, born this day 80 years ago, showed the music world in 1962 that he was one bad sonofabitch. On the heels of his considerable success as an R&B artist and in the midst of great racial strife in the US, he told his label that he wanted to record an album. A country and western album.

Was Charles trying to make a point? Yes, but not about how we're all essentially the same, that we all oughtta get along because really, as Charles himself once said, "You take country music, you take black music, you got the same goddamn thing exactly." Naw - he wanted to record a country and western album because he'd grown up playing piano in hillbilly bands and, more importantly, he wanted to see if his label would let him pull such a crazy stunt.

They did, and Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music ended up being one of the best-selling albums recorded by a black musician of the time, as well as one of the best-selling country albums (selling over half a million copies in its first three months of release), it won Charles a Grammy, and proved to be one of the most successful (and unexpected) crossover projects of all time.

In honor of Charles' birthday, and in even greater honor of his being one bad sonofabitch for pulling this off, 7 of his country songs.

Side One, Track Two:
"You Don't Know Me"

Side One, Track Five:
"Just a Little Lovin' (Will Go a Long Way)"

Side Two, Track One:
"Worried Mind"

Side Two, Track Three:
"You Win Again"

Side Two, Track Five:
"I Can't Stop Loving You"

Of course, Ray Charles' country connections didn't start or end with this album.

From Johnny Cash's variety show, Charles gives "Ring of Fire" a little more soul...

...and the biggest of his eight hits on the country charts, "Seven Spanish Angels," a duet with Willie Nelson.

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