How Ray Charles Convinced Me to Be His Stand-In
I met the music legend as a journalist, and before I knew it, we'd grown close – close enough that when reporters interviewed him, I answered the questions.
Illustration by Casey Roonan
For a period of time in the 1990’s I was Ray Charles.
I never sang “Georgia” or “Hit the Road, Jack,” and Pepsi never paid me to sell their product. But over a several year span, I — a white guy who grew up in New Jersey — got to speak not for Ray Charles, but as the man known as the “Genius” and the “High Priest of Soul.”
It began innocently enough. After thousands of interviews, Ray had come to hate the process, and told me he was particularly dreading a session with a journalist who stuttered. “Come on by and sit with me,” Ray said. “If you’re there, maybe we can figure out what he’s asking and get the goddamn thing over with.” Only when I arrived for the interview did Ray inform me that instead of merely keeping him company, I — not he — would be doing the talking. Ray was a prankster, so I assumed he was joking. The reporter blanched when he learned who would be answering his questions, but I figured that once we were under way, Ray would laugh, then tak…
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