45 Years On, Ray Charles’ Soaring “America The Beautiful” Still Makes Our Hearts Swell With Pride
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“Oh Beautiful, For Heroes Proved…”
I don’t care how tough you are – when Ray Charles sang “America the Beautiful” you were rendered speechless, tears of pride and joy threatening to fall as the high priest of soul boiled down the 19th century love letter to America into a soulful celebration of every single promise ever outlined for us in the Constitution. The closing track on Charles’ groundbreaking 1972 album A Message From The People, “America the Beautiful” sounds both everything and nothing like the version we grew up singing in school, and that’s what makes it so damn special – it ties together the best parts of our history through a part of Ray Charles that allowed him to live and breathe the American Dream.
Fun Fact: “America the Beautiful” songwriter Katharine Lee Bates originally wrote the words as a poem, “Pikes Peak”, first published in the Fourth of July edition of the church periodical The Congregationalist in 1895. At that time, the poem was titled “America” for publication.
Supported by an organ, his piano, and a simple country backbeat, Ray’s take is fiercely humble in its delivery and forces you to actually listen as lyrics like “Oh beautiful for heroes proved/In liberating strife/Who, more than self, their country loved/And mercy, more than life” call to memory all of the millions of times we’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with each other in our pursuit to make our forefathers proud and make real the promises they fought and died to deliver. One of our favorite tributes to the land we call home, check out Ray Charles’ 1972 performance of “America the Beautiful” from The Dick Cavett Show in the video below and of course, have yourselves a happy and safe 4th of July!