Friends Gather to Sing It for Brother Ray -
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Friends Gather to Sing It for Brother Ray

Friends Gather to Sing It for Brother Ray

Sat Oct 16,11:10 AM ET
Entertainment - Reuters

By Gail Mitchell

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - "You're going to be standing up a whole lot tonight," actor/comedian Jamie Foxx (news) told the audience at the Oct. 8 tribute "Genius: A Night for Ray Charles" at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Starting with the ovation elicited by Elton John (news) and Mary J. Blige's performance, Foxx's prophecy came true.

The John/Blige duet was one in a string of emotional highs during the event, which Foxx hosted. The actor is sparking Academy Award buzz with his performance as the R&B pioneer in director Taylor Hackford's biopic "Ray," which opens Oct. 29. Against a backdrop of clips from the film, as well as videoclips and photos from Charles' storied career, a parade of artists paid tribute to the musician, who died in June. The posthumous Concord release "Genius Loves Company" recently earned Charles his first platinum award.

Longtime friend Quincy Jones (news) advised, "Don't think about having a pity party for Ray." And his words were taken to heart. There was no generation gap. There were no color lines. The night was about one thing: plain good music.

Blige wailed new life into "(Night Time Is) The Right Time" with John. The Rev. Al Green convened church and anointed the audience his choir on "What'd I Say." Usher lifted spirits with his version of "Georgia on My Mind," while Reba McEntire underscored Charles' unorthodox bent on the country classic "I Can't Stop Loving You."

Also performing were Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Norah Jones (news) and Billy Preston (news). Film stars providing special introductions included Morgan Freeman (news), Tom Cruise (news) and Bruce Willis (news). Making the evening even more poignant, the Rickey Minor-led band played from Charles' original charts.

Fans who couldn't attend the event can see many of the performances in a one-hour TV special airing Oct. 22 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.


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