Rabbenu Home


A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Monday, December 27, 2004

Ray Charles, Ken Medema, God and Me

The other night I went to see the movie "Ray" starring Jamie Foxx. In case you've been living in a cave and haven't heard, Jamie Foxx is uncanny in this picture. And the music is, well, the music is a wonder and a marvel. In addition, my children gave me assorted Ray Charles CD's for Chanukah. I must confess: I have a Ray Charles addiction.

Maybe it's because I play the piano and like to sing, but I just find myself delighted and touched deeply by Ray Charles, whether he is compassing the boundaries of funk in "What I Say" or plumbing the depths of emotional range in "Georgia on My Mind" or "Drown in My Own Tears." The word "genius" was long and often applied to Ray Charles, and not without reason. Employing an economy of resources, ten fingers, rhythmic and sparce piano, and the timbre of his own voice, Ray succceded in laying claim to multiple musical genres, and in each case, made them his own, leaving us renditions unsurpassed for their lyricism, swing, and emotional credibility.

I am reminded of another blind musician, Ken Medema, a man of almost Mozartian talent. I remember hearing him in concert in the 1980's. He had a gimmick: he would ask audience members to suggest three lettters between A and G, and then any three words. From those letters [acutally notes of the scale] and those three words, he would improvise a credible and marvelous neo-Baroque Prelude and Fugue. As I listened to him, tears streamed down my face as I marveled at this reflection of the glories of God our Creator.

Rumor has it that Brother Ray was not always the nicest of men. Certainly his having had eleven or twelve children, most of them from illicit relationships of one kind or another, disqualifies him from most people's lists of heroes. Yet, despite his warts, Ray was and remains a testimony to the glory of God.

And as I heard him sing "Heaven Help Us All" and "Sinner's Prayer" on one of my recent Ray Charles CD's, I did so with the fervent prayer that God heard and replied affirmatively to these words sung by one whose creative genius reflects the glories of the God who made him.