“Heaven Help Us All”: God Pop’s Soulful Side

“Heaven Help Us All” – a soulful spiritual Ray Charles recorded for his 1972 album,            Message from the People – is actually a Ron Miller composition that was first performed by Stevie Wonder as both a single release and album track on Signed, Sealed & Delivered LP from 1970.

Ray Charles LP

From Mike Evans’ 2009 biography, Ray Charles:  Birth of Soul, we learn that “Heaven Help Us All” was Ray’s favorite track on A Message From the People.  Charles would receive a Grammy in 2004 for his performance of the song with Gladys Knight from his Genius Loves Company album of duets.

A Message from the People would be among the last few albums released on ABC imprint, Tangerine, the label owned by Ray Charles.  As History of Rock website notes,   “In 1973 Charles left ABC Records, retaining the rights to his ABC material and transferring his Tangerine operation to the new label Crossover.”

Two Old Cats Like Ray Charles & Hank Williams, Jr.

I took a chance on a 45 – a duet from 1984 by Ray Charles and Hank Williams, Jr. – and I begrudgingly admit it charmed me:

“Two Old Cats Like Us” is the lead-off song from Ray’s Friendship album of collaborations with famous friends, such as Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson & Chet Atkins.

Two Old CatsTroy Sales, who wrote the song, was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame four years later in 1988 – click here to check out his 20-year career highlights.

The Real Cincinnati Kid

This blog’s first post is a tip of the hat to my hometown, Cincinnati, and the record label  that recorded the rhythm & blues and hillbilly bop that helped give birth to rock and roll, King Records.

In 1965 King’s most famous and influential artist, James Brown (along with The Famous Flames) ushered in the new funk with the landmark 45, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”  That same year Steve McQueen starred as “The Cincinnati Kid,” a professional gambler in 1930s New Orleans, who challenges the reigning poker champ to a big match in a film that featured music composed by Ray Charles.

The following year saw the release of a tune also bearing the title, “Cincinnati Kid,” but musically and lyrically being something else altogether.  Instead Prince Buster, one of the leading lights of the Jamaican rocksteady sound, slyly calls out praise and respect to the “real” Cincinnati Kid – James Brown – (without actually naming him) in a particularly funky track for 1966 that clearly shows the influence of the new sound being laid down in a recording studio on Brewster Avenue (that still stands) in the Evanston neighborhood of Cincinnati across I-71 from my old high school.  The Cincinnati-Kingston connection.  There you have it – listen for yourself: