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Song Stories

“What'd I Say”

Ray Charles | 1959

The man known as “The Genius” literally wrote this gospel-derived song in front of an audience, in late 1958 or early 1959. He and his crack R&B orchestra, newly supplemented by a female vocal group, the Raelettes, were playing a marathon dance show in a small town near Pittsburgh. When Charles ran out of repertoire late in the second set, he kicked into an uphill bass-note arpeggio on the piano, told the band to follow along and instructed the Raelettes, “Whatever I say, just repeat after me.” Afterward, Charles said, dancers rushed up to him and asked, “Where can I buy that record?”

Find out which all-time singing great referred to Ray Charles as “the only genius in the business.”
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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

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