Ray Charles discusses with Dick Cavett his ability of lack thereof to tell whether someone is black or white based on their voice alone, they perform a duet of Am I Blue and then goes on to talk a bit about drug use and quitting
Interviewer: I really… Ray, it’s just your luck that you’d be here on the night when my throat is a little scratchy.
Ray: That’s alright baby, mine is too. Don’t worry about a thing! It’s all right.
Interviewer: Listen, otherwise we could have done a medley of down-home favorites.
Ray: Down-home favorites?
Interviewer: Oh yeah. It would be smarter to play chess with Bobby Fischer than for me to try to sing with you.
Ray: Speaking of, do you play chess really?
Interviewer: No, I know you do though. You’re very good.
Ray: I mean the regular chess.
Interviewer: You mean the chess with….
Ray: Right, with the cards and the queens.
Interviewer: No no, I don’t play that but I know you do.
Ray: Yes, I love that, I really do.
Interviewer But about our singing together, I know a lot of people will be disappointed except me if we don’t. But you know what it is? What I wonder about since I can’t sing.
Ray: No, no, no, no, wait.
Interviewer: What is it?
Ray: You’ve got to have at least five bars of something. Now at least that. I won’t let you get away without at least five bars.
Interviewer: The audience is up to go to five bars.
Ray: I think they missed that.
Interviewer: What is it about the voice? I mean, if you heard my voice and had never seen me before could you tell what I was black or white?
Ray: You know, that’s interesting you should ask that.
Interviewer: What are the laughing at?
Ray: I guess I probably, well no, I really couldn’t because it really would depend on where you came from.
Interviewer: Go on.
Ray: No, really. there are many people who it’s a matter of quality diction is you know, what is traditional. Now you see, I know many black people speak very, very, very well.
Interviewer: And you could be fooled?
Ray: Oh sure, you cannot tell; it’s impossible! I don’t think you could tell whether Ralph Bunche was black or white or…
Interviewer: But I would think you could for some reason, I don’t know what it is.
Ray: No, I’m not going to lie like that, I really couldn’t.
Interviewer: Are you going to tell me that Tom Jones fooled you?
Ray: I don’t know what Tom Jones is. No, seriously though, I actually think though that it really depends. There are many people speak and on the other hand, I know very many articulate people you know right away though if they are black because it’s something about their accent. They live in the South for so long and it’s just like many people who come from the South and say like, they live in Mississippi and Alabama and they come to northern radio stations and the go on the air and you can tell right away because I don’t care how hard they tried to keep it. There is always a little twang somewhere in their voice, you see, where you know. So it really depends on the individual.
Interviewer: So when they say ladies and gentlemen here is an excellent product for your hiyah.
Ray: Yeah, exactly, exactly.You’re right on baby, believe me.
Interviewer: Let’s make an experiment. Now let’s say there are seven people here let’s ask the audience to close their eyes and the audience at home to close their eyes and see if you can tell who the next voice is singing. You all have your eyes shut?
Ray: Okay, go.
Interviewer: [singing] “Am I blue”
Ray: I got your key now.
Interviewer: [singing] “Am I blue. Ain’t these tears in these eyes telling you”
Ray: Wait a minute, isn’t that nice? I think that’s good.
Interviewer: Could you tell?
Ray: That’s really great. [Singing] “One fine day, till today. Now she’s gone and we’re through baby now. Am I blue?”
Interviewer: There was a time.
Ray: [singing] “There was a time”
Interviewer: [singing] “When I was the only one”.
Ray: [singing] “Now I am, yes I am the only one”
Interviewer: [singing] “Yeah, lonely one”
Ray: Hang in there, baby, hit it!
Interviewer: [singing] “Was I gay, till today. Now she’s gone.”
Ray: [singing] “And we’re through”. Here we go, all together now.
Both: [singing] “Am I…..”.
Ray: You go first now.
Interviewer: [singing] “Blue”.
Ray: Oh that’s marvelous! I loved that.
Interviewer: I’ve got to tell the people that home, wait.
Ray: That’s all right.
Interviewer: I’ve got to tell the people, you can open your eyes now it was me all the time. We have a brief message will be right back. Thank you.
Ray. That was great.
Interviewer: We’re back. Gee, my hands are trembling from that experience. I don’t know why.
Ray: That’s all right.
Interviewer: If one person in America couldn’t tell who was singing where – I’ll be amazed.
Ray: Well, you see you have a deep bass voice you know. I’ve never had that kind of voice; my voice is very medium-range. So, I guess it’s easy to detect me. I’m sort of…
Interviewer: I’m sure that’s what it is, the difference in the range.
Ray: Right, exactly. Other than that, you were doing swell.
Interviewer: Yeah. Ray, we only have a couple of minutes left and I don’t want to risk your friendship for anything, but I noticed you have been interviews that I’ve read in print have always turned off the subject of drugs when somebody brings it up. A lot of people who have had drug experience spend the rest of your lives giving advice on the subject.
Ray: Did anybody tell you? I’ve never done that, I wouldn’t do that to you. Turn off any subject.
Interviewer: You wouldn’t?
Ray: No, no really, I’m serious I really wouldn’t.
Interviewer: Is there anything, when people ask you to sum that up, anything you say about it, do you give advice on your experience?
Ray: No because when you say advice then and that’s a different thing you know. I don’t give advice on nothing. I really don’t, it’s not a put on, I just don’t do it. I can say to people only what I have found out with me you see? But you’ve got to remember that everyone cannot take penicillin. Penicillin hurt some people. Everyone cannot take aspirin, aspirin hurts some people. So, I don’t give advice, I think you should go to people who are in the business of giving advice. I never give advice. I can only tell people what I found, what I’ve seen and what I have witnessed that might have happened to me and then I can comment in on it, about it but I don’t give advice no. That’s probably what you heard.
Interviewer: Maybe that’s it.
Ray: I think that drugs as such as people think of it, everything that drug really. Anything that makes your body or tried to make your body do certain things is a drug. But I say that the so-called drug we know it as heroin and stuff like that, the heavy drug. I think it’s very, very bad and I’m certain that I should know because first of all, I think that the human being should always be in total control of himself. So, alcohol is a drug too. So, any time that you are monkeying around with anything that will gain control of your body which means that alcohol can do that, the so-called heroine can do that. Then, of course, you’re asking for trouble because you know you’re not your own keeper and I think it’s very, very bad especially with young people. You see the youngsters it’s very bad. I hear about New York with kids – 10, 12 years old with overdose. That’s awful, very bad.
Interviewer: What, you committed yourself to a hospital secure yourself of that?
Ray: Well no, I didn’t commit myself to cure myself. I went to the hospital because it was the right thing for me to do under the circumstances. Now I had a made-up mind and frankly, you see there is no psychiatrist or psychoanalyst or there is no judge if it gives you 20 years that people come right out and walk around the streets and keep on doing what they were doing. It’s not that; a person has to have his mind made up that this is not good for him. You hear people talk about smoking just plain cigarettes, you know? If you want to stop smoking you can quit smoking if you want to. What you have to first make up your mind that “Look, I don’t want to smoke anymore” and that’s it. And it’s the same thing that applies to the so-called drugs or alcohol on which as I said it’s s ‘spotted as a drug too.
Interviewer: Very good, okay.
Ray: Is it? Do you trust me with it? I don’t know.
Interviewer: I believe you, yes.
Ray: You sounded like you were a little shaky about it there.
Interviewer: Well, I’m still a little rattled from our number and then being so pure myself I can’t identify with you.
Ray: I know, I know, I understand.
Interviewer: Any of these things. I’m trying to quit post em.
Ray: Are yah?
Interviewer: After this message from our local stations; no offense post em. we’ll be right back.
Interviewer: Ray Charles, having you here is one of the real great thrills of doing the show that I had and I want to thank you for being here and doing the whole show and I’m going to practice a lot between now and the next time I see you.
Ray: It’s all right Dick. Believe me, it’s all fun to me. I loved it; I really did, quite fun.
Interviewer: Great, thank you.
Ray: And I’ll come back and if you have any problem then I will teach you a little more the next time.
Interviewer: I still have a little way to go. Thank you and will see you tomorrow night. Good night.