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Video: Ray Charles’ song ‘America the Beautiful’ honored for 50th Anniversary

Scattered clouds blanket the sky as the Statue of Liberty stands tall on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, in August 2015. (Robin Loznak/Zuma Press/TNS)
October 04, 2022

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Ray Charles’ classic rendition of “America the Beautiful,” which first appeared on the singer’s album entitled “A Message from The People” on April 4, 1972.

In honor of the anniversary, Tangerine Records — which was founded by Charles — released a special remastered edition of the album, according to Music Row. A new music video featuring Charles’ rendition of “America the Beautiful” was also released.  

The popular album features a number of other classic songs, including “They’ll Be No Peace on Earth Without All Men As One,” “Abraham, Martin and John,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and “Heaven Help Us All.”

Producer John Burk, who now runs Tangerine Records, appeared on New York Public Radio in June to discuss re-releasing the album and what it was like working with Ray Charles.

When asked how Charles took “America the Beautiful” and altered “the very meaning and reception of what those lines even mean,” Burk replied, “I guess the first thing I would say is that was the magic of Ray Charles.”

“He somehow embodied so much life experience and put it into his music in a way that was so relatable to all of us. I give an example, one time when we were recording together, I wanted him to re-sing one little section of one song and it was kind of funny. He said to me, ‘No, I ain’t doing that.’ We have to admit I was a little intimidated by him sometimes. I didn’t push it,” Burk said.

“Then we were using a more jovial mood, we were joking around about something. I said, ‘Hey, by the way, what do you think about, are you sure you want to revisit that section?’ He said, ‘I told you I ain’t doing it.’ That was the end of that conversation that day. Then finally, a third day, I thought I’d take one more shot at it. He said to me, ‘Listen, son, that’s when I was feeling it and that’s what you want,’” Burk continued.

“I think that says everything about the way Ray sang is he put himself inside the song and when he was believing it, that was the performance,” he added. “Somehow, he found a way to get inside that song in a way that just made it universal. I think that the song, it speaks to the beliefs and the values that we all hope America is going to be and highlights the beauty of that and what we have achieved. It also, somehow, he brings some of the pain of our shortcomings.”