Saturday, May 11, 2013

Country Club #8: I'm Moving On from Hank Snow to Ray Charles

I heard Hank Snow's "I'm Moving On" on Wichita's oldie country station early this week. It is one of the all-time best-selling country songs,one of three songs in the history of the Billboard country charts to spend 21 weeks at #1. But it is decidedly outside the usual parameters of the station which usually plays and artists about midway between today and 1950 when this one was first recorded.

As the song resonated in my mind through the week, I got to thinking that Ray Charles had covered it as part of his legendary 1962 Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. But it didn't show up in the track listings. Puzzled,I remembered the Charles made a follow-up second volume, which was also a tremendous commercial and artistic success. Still no luck.  I was beginning to doubt my encyclopedic language of American popular music, at least the parts I know, was a figment. A little more research showed I wasn't imagining things. Charles' version of "I'm Moving On" was released as part of his last album with Atlantic "Genius Sings the Blues" That makes sense. The song is structurally a blues with an added 8-bar chorus.

The Modern Sounds LPs marked a major turn in Charles' career towards pop music and away from r&b which he largely created. While Charles "I'm Moving On" is done as a rocker and doesn't sound out of place played after "What'd I Say," the arrangements on MSCW are standard big-band or string sections redeemed by Charles's great singing.

When Charles died in 2004, NPR and other media outlets concentrated on his the later part of his career when he crossed over to white audiences and ignoring his revolutionary role in black music, prompting me to ask "Was Ray Charles White?"

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