1. Lisa de Moraes, “Kanye West’s Torrent of Criticism, Live on NBC,” Washington Post (September 3, 2005), C1, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/03/AR2005090300165.html.
6. Michael Lydon, Ray Charles (New York: Routledge, 2004), 419: “Arnold Shaw, in The Rockin’ 50’s says that ‘I Got a Woman’ is based on Jesus is All the World to Me. Because Renald Richard left Ray’s band before the song was recorded, he was not at first properly credited: some record labels list [Ray Charles] alone as the songwriter. Richard, however, straightened that out with Atlantic, and he has for many years earned a substantial income from his royalties.”
In 1954 an historic recording session with Atlantic records fused gospel with rhythm-and-blues and established Charles’ “sweet new style” in American music. One number recorded at that session was destined to become his first great success. Secularizing the gospel hymn “My Jesus Is All the World to Me,” Charles employed the 8- and 16-measure forms of gospel music, in conjunction with the 12-measure form of standard blues. Charles contended that his invention of soul music resulted from the heightening of the intensity of the emotion expressed by jazz through the charging of feeling in the unbridled way of gospel.
“Ray Charles,” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1998), 469. Popular accounts offer the same story:
This young, blind, black, gravelly-voiced singer brought together the most engaging aspects of black music into one form and began the process of synthesis that led to soul and, ultimately, funk a decade later. He would turn around gospel standards like “My Jesus Is All the World to Me,” recreating it as “I Got a Woman[.]”
Ricky Vincent, Funk: The Music, The People, and the Rhythm of the One (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1996), 121. See also Joel Hirschhorn, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Songwriting (New York: Alpha Books, 2004), 108: “I Got a Woman was Ray’s rewrite of ‘My Jesus Is All the World to Me.’ ”
Charles himself was more equivocal about the origins of the song:
So I was lucky. Lucky to have my own band at this point in my career. Lucky to be able to construct my musical building to my exact specifications. And lucky in another way: While I was stomping around New Orleans, I had met a trumpeter named Renolds [sic] Richard who by thus time was in my band. One day he brought me some words to a song. I dressed them up a little and put them to music. The tune was called “I Got a Woman,” and it was another of those spirituals which I refashioned in my own way. I Got a Woman was my first real smash, much bigger than [“]Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand[.]” This spiritual-and-blues combination of mine was starting to hit.
Charles and Ritz, Brother Ray, 150.
10. James Henke, Holly George-Warren, Anthony Decurtis, and Jim Miller, The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll: The Definitive History of the Most Important Artists and Their Music (New York: Random House, 1992), 130.
12. “His 1955 smash ‘I’ve Got a Woman,’ for example, was adapted from a gospel number he’d liked called ‘I’ve Got a Savior.’ ” Chip Deffaa, Blue Rhythms: Six Lives in Rhythm and Blues(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 161.
15. “If one can pinpoint a moment when gospel and blues began to merge into a secular version of gospel song, it was in 1954 when Ray Charles recorded ‘My Jesus Is All the World to Me,’ changing its text to ‘I Got A Woman.’ The following year, he changed Clara Ward’s ‘This Little Light of Mine’ to ‘This Little Girl of Mine.’ ” Stephens, “Soul,” 32.
But it was the staggering, nearly byzantine ambition that encompassed Charles’ musical mind which is the foundation for his art. You can hear it in his first imprint on the pop music world, 1955’s I Got A Woman. The shuffling big beat borrows from Louis Jordan’s big band fusion, the backbeat is 2/4 gospel. The arrangement is lucid, not quite jazz, not quite blues, definitely not rock and roll but something sophisticated altogether. The emotions are feral, but not quite the primitiveness of rock and roll. It is the sound of life, a place where there is an ever flowing river of cool. It, you might ask? Rhythm and Blues, Ray Charles’ invention.
A volcano bubbling under the surface, Ray spent the mid 50’s crafting timeless songs as if there were cars on an assembly[.] Start with the blasphemous fusion of Hallelujah I [L]ove Her So and This Little Girl of Mine, where Ray changes the words from loving god to loving a woman, yet, in the intensity of his performance, raises the question if he’s still loving the same thing.
The anonymous encyclopedists at Wikipedia agree:
Many of the most prominent soul artists, such as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett and Al Green, had roots in the church and gospel music and brought with them much of the vocal styles of artists such as Clara Ward and Julius Cheeks. Secular songwriters often appropriated gospel songs, such as the Pilgrim Travelers’ song “I’ve Got A New Home,” which Ray Charles turned into “Lonely Avenue,” or “Stand By Me,” which Ben E. King and Lieber and Stoller adapted from a well-known gospel song, or Marvin Gaye’s “Can I Get A Witness,” which reworks traditional gospel catchphrases. In other cases secular musicians did the opposite, attaching phrases and titles from the gospel tradition to secular songs to create soul hits such as “Come See About Me” for the Supremes and “991?2Won’t Do” for Wilson Pickett.
“Urban Contemporary Gospel,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/urban_contemporary_gospel.
21. Kembrew McLeod, Owning Culture: Authorship, Ownership and Intellectual Property Law (New York: Peter Lang, 2001), and Siva Vaidhyanathan, Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity (New York: New York University Press, 2001).
23. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968), 217–42.