Thursday, October 6, 2016
SHG: Ray Charles: "You Don't Know Me"
Ray Charles: “You Don’t Know Me”
Entered the chart on: 8/4/62
Peaked on: 9/8/62
Weeks at #2: 1
Song at #1: “Sheila” by Tommy Roe
Ah, Ray Charles. People who say that the early 60s was a wasteland for popular music probably need to be reminded that Ray Charles was in his prime during this period. And if anyone has a bad word to say about Ray Charles, kindly smack them in the back of the head for me.
If this is the song I think it is, it’s a good one. But I associate Ray Charles with original material, and this one’s a cover. Originally sung by country singer Eddy Arnold in 1959, it was subsequently done by Jerry Vale before Ray Charles got his pipes and ivories all over it. So, in the grand tradition of Second Hand Goods, I shall duly consult those versions before sampling Ray Charles’ interpretation.
A short little prelude before the main feature: this is the song I think it is. Eddy Arnold’s version is very good in the Jim Reeves mould. Maybe a bit better, actually. Not feeling Jerry Vale’s version, his voice is fine, but a bit overly polite, to say nothing of Percy Faith’s saccharine orchestration. But I really love this song. It’s really a heart-breaking number, all about a man who’s too shy to let his beloved know how he really feels.
Honestly, why would I relate to such a song?
Right, I think we have a record-breaker. I’ve previously said that it takes 57 seconds for Nat “King” Cole’s voice to have its effect on the listener. With Ray Charles I think that’s zero seconds. He opens his mouth to sing, and I’m immediately an emotional wreck. It’s such exquisite torture! He really knows how to squeeze every drop of pathos from this lyric. It’s funny, he has this sunny, jolly personality, then he proceeds to sing one of the saddest songs you’ve ever heard.
I have to say, I’m not especially fond of Marty Paich’s arrangement. The pillowy strings and old-fashioned choir probably even beat Percy Faith’s orchestration on Jerry Vale’s version in the sticky-as-molasses department. But I suppose it’s not too different from “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and other such Ray Charles hit ballads of this era.
That said, I’m glad someone put this lead sheet in front of Ray and told him to sing it. This is the definitive version of this tune. I’ve always associated this song with him, and believe me, there’s a reason. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard this version before, I’ve just seen TV performances and the like of him singing it at his piano.
Sorrow has never been quite so enjoyable.