“Ray Charles: the Genius”
Lecture by John Edward Hasse
Monday, September 18 at 6 PM
ALIF Villa Residence, 28 Rue Mohammed Diouri
Ray Charles overcame racism, poverty, and blindness to gain worldwide acclaim as a singer, songwriter, pianist, and arranger. As a lad, he had ears like a sonic sponge, absorbing everything from blues to country & western music. Infusing rhythm and blues with the fervor of down-home gospel music, he helped pioneer the genre called “soul music.” His unique voice and passionate style made him one of the most beloved musicians of our time. With his genius for fusing gospel, rhythm and blues, soul, blues, jazz, country, rock, and pop, Charles became one of the most innovative and influential talents in American music. He wrote such enduring songs as Hallelujah, I Love Her So and What’d I Say, and made every other song his own—popular standards (Georgia On My Mind; Baby, It’s Cold Outside), rock hits (Eleanor Rigby), crossover country songs (You Are My Sunshine; I Can’t Stop Loving You), and a stirring interpretation of America the Beautiful. Music curator John Edward Hasse tells about acquiring Ray Charles’s Ray-Bans and Braille keyboard for the Smithsonian. And Hasse illuminates Ray Charles’s unique life story and illustrates—with analysis, anecdotes, photos, and video clips—his enduring contributions to American culture.
John Edward Hasse is a museum curator, author, speaker, and leader in his field. For 33 years, he served as Curator of American Music at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, where he curated exhibitions on Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Ray Charles, and founded the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and Jazz Appreciation Month, now celebrated in all 50 states and in 40 countries. He is former Chairman of Smithsonian Music. He is author of an acclaimed biography, Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington, with a Foreword by Wynton Marsalis, and editor of Jazz: The First Century, with Forewords by Quincy Jones and Tony Bennett. Hasse is co-author of Discover Jazz and co-producer of Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology. He is a contributor to The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and eight encyclopedias. As an expert on 20th century American music, he has been interviewed in The New York Times, on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR, PBS, CNN, BBC, and many other news outlets. Hasse also served as the principal advisor to the U.S. Postal Service on its stamp series Legends of American Music that began with Elvis Presley. He earned a B.A. Cum Laude from Carleton College and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Indiana University, two Honorary Doctorates, and a Certificate in Business Administration from The Wharton School. He has received two Grammy Award nominations and two ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards for excellence in writing about music. Active in cultural diplomacy for the US State Department, Hasse has lectured on leadership, the arts, and music in 20 countries on six continents.