Nearly every week, two or more new rock 'n’ roll bios come across our desk here at PWHQ. We simply don’t have time to read them all. But we should be able to fake like we did. What to do? Have the interns read them, and bullet-point the book’s most interesting bits so we can fake a conversation about it. We’re calling it Fake Can Be Just As Good, a Blonde Redhead reference maybe a dozen or so readers will get. Up this week is Ray Charles Robinson Jr.’s book, You Don't Know Me: Reflections of My Father, Ray Charles. Our intern describes it thusly: “Uninsightful. Poorly written. Jr. throws himself a thoroughly undeserved pity party. Reiterates much of the Oscar-winning biopic, but in the flat vocabulary of an eighth-grader. Drug-addict Jr. inherited all of his father’s flaws, none of his talent. Says nothing profound. Merely rehashing a pretty privileged past. Emotionally unengaging. Egoistic.” Feisty group we’ve got this summer!
• Ray Charles Robinson Jr.’s mother, Della, left home while she was a teenager, and obtained a forged Social Security card so she could get a job waiting tables.
• Both Ray and Della had been married and divorced before they wed one another.
• Della was not impressed with Ray when she first met him. Ray, however, was enraptured, and made an arrangement with the head of her gospel group, Cecil Shaw, to keep tabs on her.
• Ray Jr. spent his two first days at home sleeping in a dresser while the family waited for a crib to be delivered.
• As a baby, Ray Jr. would spit out his mother’s breast milk.
• Ray Charles loved toys, specifically tops and cars. When Della and the children went shopping to pick out Christmas gifts, they would bring home a special toy for the full-grown Ray.
• Ray Charles never liked to go out for meals, because he was ashamed that he had to touch the food on his plate in order to navigate it.
• Though blind, Charles dressed himself impeccably. He sewed Braille numbers into every article of clothing he owned so that he could easily discern the item’s color.
• Charles bought a private airplane in 1960, and eventually learned how to pilot it himself.
• Della once drew a gun on her husband, mistaking him for an intruder.
• Ray Jr.’s brother, David, who loved to play with matches, set a bedroom closet on fire in their California home.
• Ray Charles used to cruise down the street on a Vespa given to him by Hugh Hefner.
• Ray Jr. saved his father’s life once, when he discovered a strung-out Ray Charles in his office bleeding from his wrist.
• Ray Charles used to have Sunday chess games with Quincy Jones.
• When she found them pretending to drink and smoke, Della forced her children to smoke the remainder of a pack of Kools and drink glasses of Cutty Sark until they vomited.
• Ray Jr.’s first car was a golden Porsche 911T, which he began racing in California time trials.
• For Underdog Productions, Ray Jr. booked his father for a concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Ray Charles was unaware that his son was behind it until Ray Jr. delivered his check backstage.
• The concept behind Ray Charles’ Grammy-winning album Genius Loves Company was Ray Jr.’s idea.
In Memoriam: Lou Reed