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The Genius Keeps “Georgia On My Mind”

Ray Charles was a genius.

His voice was as rich as divinity candy and as smooth as Kentucky bourbon. His final album, Genius Loves Company, was released in September 2004, four months after his death. It was his first top-10 album in forty years and the best-selling record of his career. In February 2005, the compilation of star-studded duets was awarded eight Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year.

When it was released, it could only be purchased at Starbuck’s. I was on my way to Athens when I heard a track on the radio. My first stop in the Classic City was Starbuck’s. I bought about three or four copies. I knew it was something to share.

Ray has a special place in my heart. He was the main act at the grand opening of the Harlequin Dinner Theater in Atlanta in 1977. He and his Rayettes lit up the stage. As soon as he started the first song, however, he stopped mid-verse, looked toward the sound booth and said: “Hey now…These folks paid good money for this show and we gonna get this sound right before we go any further.”

Yep…Ray Charles was a genius — the master — and he sings my favorite song better than anybody else on the planet.

I’ll always love ya’ Ray.

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