LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Concord Music Group today announced that it will digitally release Ray Charles’ signature rendition of “America the Beautiful” on January 20, Inauguration Day in America. The song, offered digitally for the first time, will be made available via all digital music retailers.
Charles recorded “America the Beautiful” in 1972 at his landmark Los Angeles recording studio, R.P.M. for his A Message From the People album. His interpretation became the archetype and remained a permanent staple of his performance repertoire for the remainder of his career.
According to Charles’ biographer David Ritz, “Ray didn’t love the song at first. It’s a patriotic song, coming from a place of pain and struggle. He was reluctant to tackle it unless he could infuse it with his singular bluesy style. He took an American classic composition, found its essential soul, changing it in such a radical way that most people now think of his version first before all others.”
“Ray Charles would be very proud that “America the Beautiful” is being released digitally on the day Barak Obama takes the oath of office. Ray found in the song and his performance all that truthfully makes America a place of transcendent dreams,” said Valerie Ervin, President of The Ray Charles Foundation.
Last year, Concord Music Group announced it had entered into an exclusive arrangement with the Ray Charles Foundation to develop the artist’s post-1960 catalog, which contains his classic work for the ABC and Tangerine labels. In 2009 the masters will be made available digitally for the first time ever, including such iconic recordings as “Georgia on My Mind,” “Hit the Road Jack” and “Crying Time” among many others.
In April, Concord will release Genius: The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection, a definitive retrospective volume featuring 21 chart-topping Ray Charles hits. As 2009 progresses, several other titles will also see the light. Among the highlights are a Starbucks Opus Anthology, to be available at the coffee retailer; Modern Sounds in Country Western Music, Vol. 1 & 2; The Genius Hits the Road; Genius + Soul = Jazz; Berlin, 1962. The Spirit of Christmas was released digitally in December, 2008.
The ambitious reissue initiative continues Concord Music Group’s association with Ray Charles. 2004’s Genius Loves Company was the winner of eight Grammy Awards, including Best Album. Concord has also released Ray Sings, Basie Swings in 2006, a previously unavailable recording featuring Charles with the Count Basie Orchestra.