Listen to this song by the Leonardo DaVinci of R&B, and one of the prime movers in the invention and development of popular music as a whole, Ray Charles. It’s his version of ‘That Lucky Old Sun’, popularly recorded by Frankie Laine in 1949, and covered by a great many artists since then ranging from Jerry Lee Lewis, to Aretha Franklin, to Frank Sinatra, to Brian Wilson. It may be one of the most heartfelt versions of one of the most heartfelt songs ever recorded. Ray’s version appears on his 1963 album Ingredients in a Recipe For Soul.
The first time I heard it was on the soundtrack of the film Malcolm X, starring Denzel Washington. The song itself is something of a throwback to the days of toil in the cotton fields, in the film being a great contrast to the more militant and politicized nature of where many in the black community were at by the 1960s. Yet, in some ways, that only because of the colloquial language used in the lyrics. I personally find that the lyrics hit on quite a universal theme of existential alienation. Wow, that sounds weighty.
But the subject matter is weighty, with the troubles and toils of the common man seeming to be irrelevant or ignored by the rest of the cosmos, which seems to have been set running like clockwork; no compassion, no purpose, and no reason for anyone to think that the sun ‘rolling around heaven all day’ means very much beyond the action itself. I think what strikes me about Ray Charles’ version most, is the sound of utter disappointment which he expertly infuses in his voice. It’s the sound of someone who desparately wants to believe that the universe has a greater purpose beyond its function, yet is coming to conclude that such a hope may be a vain one.
Pop music hits on all kinds of emotions and spiritual states. Where it is easy to sing about the meaninglessness of the world, its not as easy to capture the emotional core of that, and to bring that across so well. If you’re wondering why they called Ray Charles the Genius, then this is a great place to start.
7 thoughts on “Ray Charles Sings ‘That Lucky Old Sun’”
Ray Charles is the man. If I could sound like anyone, it would be Ray. As you suggest at, the smallest crack in his pained voice is able to convey a set of emotions that no amount of words can. I was lucky to see him twice. Both late in his life, but dang, I am lucky.
Well, done, Rob! Jeez you have nice taste! Thank you for bringing that song back for me. It’s been a long time since I heard “Lucky Old Sun”! I think I first heard it on the CD re-issue of Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which I think I’ve lost, sad to say. I’m pretty sure I still have the vinyl version of the LP in a box in my mother’s basement. I don’t think “Lucky Old Sun” was on the vinyl, but it was added to the CD. I’m headed over to my mother’s house today (it’s Mother’s Day) so will see if I can retrieve it.
Wow! Thanks for the coverage. I have alot to learn about that just emoting my emotions about it. I like Ray Charles but I know very little about him. i get caught up in the What’s New Music section that I miss alot of great music. Thanks again, man.
This tune socked me in the gut when I first heard it. It’s such a heartfelt performance, and even now it can catch me unawares and choke me up. Incredible.
Thanks again for comments, gents!
As improbable as it would seem, I remember back in the 1940’s hearing that Milton Berle wrote “That Lucky Old Sun”.is there any truth to this?
No, my son’s great grandfather, Beasley Smith wrote it. Isn’t it the BEST!
JoJo is quite correct! http://www.theguitarguy.com/luckyold.htm