LET'S GO GET STONED * RAY CHARLES * H. M. V. 1537 * UK
It seems like Ray Charles is getting as much profile in the UK now he is dead as he ever got while he was alive; the latest focus on his life and music was aired on British TV last night in the first of six programs claiming to give a definitive account of the history of Black Popular Music. The series of one hour long programs is titled 'Soul Deep', a more fitting title would be something like 'big names in black music lite', as the program was more or less all about Ray Charles - not that there is owt wrong with a program about the man or his music or anything related. Content wise what we got was more of the drip, drip of fabulous film footage never before seen, film like Ruth Brown and Big Joe Turner appearing live in some theatre sometime in the mid 1950s, but even this was (as usual) talked over and cut into, in my opinion no body who had any respect for this music would do such a thing, not only that, the booming voice-over (often, like adverts, louder than the music) never even thought it worth mentioning where or when the film was taken. This disrespect to the performers and carelessness with contextual information is par for the course, over the last 40 years or so since this music has been shown on television (public or commercial makes no difference) we have had to endure this kind of grossly unsympathetic program. What is frustrating is as each decade passes and much of the political relevance of the music diminishes, though not its beauty or poetry, we get to see not only a little more of the tiny clips shown before on disparate occasions, but more new and as yet unseen bits and pieces of footage, that no doubt folk in the middle of this century might well be treated to longer portions of, along with other film that is being, for reasons unclear to me, denied to us now. The frustrating thing for me is knowing a little of how funding and exposure works in the world of contemporary art, I can't help asking the question who is sponsoring these films and is there a prerequisite, an agenda. Next week we will be treated to phase two of Soul with Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, more James Brown, and let me guess Otis Redding?
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