Ray Charles’ long-lost duet “Curiosity” with jazz singer Steve Tyrell has been released over 30 years after the track was recorded. The song features on Tyrell’s new covers album Shades of Ray, due out Friday.
“Ray Charles sits on a permanent pedestal in my life. He’s been there since I was in high school, singing in a band with my buddies, trying to sound just a fraction as soulful as he always did,” Tyrell said of the collaboration in a statement.
Tyrell was recruited to pen “Curiosity” as the theme song for the short-lived 1989 TV series Snoops. “When it came to recording it, there was only one person I wanted. Aim high, right? So I called Ray Charles,” Tyrell said. “Miraculously and graciously he agreed to sing my song. This was the one and only time he ever sang a television theme song.”
Tyrell continued, “When we went in to record it, some of the lyrics had been changed. Ray didn’t get the memo and didn’t have his braille machine with him. He told me not to worry and said I could sing him a line and he’d sing it back a few times until we got what we needed. For years, it has been my private secret that I got to sing a duet with Ray Charles, live. When he heard me sing, he said ‘Beautiful man, beautiful, not bad!’ My idol thought I was ‘not bad,’ and for me, that was pretty damn good!”
Tyrell — who has previously collaborated with artists like Rod Stewart, Linda Ronstadt, Aaron Neville, Diana Ross, and Dionne Warwick — will release his Shades of Ray, a collection of his version of Charles classics, on September 24th; the album also features renditions of “Let the Good Times Roll,” “I Got a Woman,” “You Don’t Know Me,” and more.
“Sometimes when you meet your idols, they don’t turn out to be what you expected,” Tyrell said in a statement. “But my experiences with Ray were everything I could have hoped for and more. Hearing our voices together and producing and writing some songs for him was a thrill of a lifetime.”