Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, James Brown...and the end of a musical era

Has anyone else made the connection between Ray Charles, Johnny Cash and most recently, James Brown, who have all left this world over the past few years?  After Ray and Walk the Line, it was hard for me not to think of Ray Charles and Johnny Cash together.  I have little doubt that a new film, maybe entitled Its a Man's World, will begin development soon.   I wonder who will play the lead character - Denzel?  Will Smith?  By the way, this James Brown interview from 2006 is hilarious, if you haven't already seen it. 

What these three artists have in common and why their passing is so significant is that they each single-handedly created their own genres that bridged existing music categories.  And they each did it in their own way.  Ray Charles combined gospel, blues and rock & roll to create timeless sweet melodies that appeal to a strikingly broad audience.  Last week, I was reminded of his version of America, The Beautiful from 1972 and I couldn't stop listening to it for days.  Johnny Cash had a totally distinctive voice and blended country, folk and rock into his soulful sound.  And the godfather of soul?  Let's just say I felt blessed to stumble upon one of his last shows in Savanna's Forsythe Park in May of 2005.  Every musician who has dabbled in funk has borrowed a page from Mr. Dynamite.  I feel like the majority of musicians today are not pushing the boundaries and defining new categories the way these three did.  I dont know if it's a sign of the times or that there aren't as many directions left to go (I doubt the latter), but that makes these musicians and others of this era musical treasures.  Arethra Franklin, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul Simon and Dr. John are some others, still living, who may share their company. 

By Josh Guttman

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