Foxx brings legendary singer Charles to life on silver screen

Anne Wrobel

It is amazing how the stroke of simple black and white keys can make a people feel. Full range of emotions such as fear, sorrow, passion, and happiness can be felt to the soul. Ray Charles (1930-2004) was the man who made such emotions through his soul, using the piano as his guide.

The biography of Ray Charles’ life has been captured on the screen through Universal Pictures’ next big hit, “Ray”. Starring Jamie Foxx as Ray, the film follows the musician’s life from the moment he knew he would permanently lose his sight at age 7 to his 25 years of heroine use.

“Ray” begins with the opening line of his mother, a laundry woman, stating, “Don’t let anyone in life treat you like you’s a crippled.” Throughout the film that phrase is not forgotten.

Charles learns early on in life to depend on himself and no one else, and grows into someone who is strong emotionally but stubborn to those who love him dearly.

After playing the piano in various gigs throughout the United States only in the background, Ray finally stands out on his own creating the roots of gospel and R&B in the 1950s. He then brings a new sound to country music and orchestral pop in the late 1960s.

One of Charles’ most popular songs, “Hit the Road Jack,” was formed from a lovers’ quarrel between himself and one of his backup singers Margie Hendricks (Regina King). Another song, “Georgia,” exploded from Charles’ fingertips because the state of Georgia banned Ray from entering due to his refusal to play a concert in the south when the Jim Crow laws were in effect.

Though his music is everlasting to this day, “Ray” exposes the dark side of his success. Not long after he starts to become recognized as a hit solo artist, Ray becomes addicted to heroine.

The film shows how Ray’s heroine addiction appears in the movements of his shoulders and head, and how it affects the people around him.

Ray’s wife, Bea (Kerry Washington), deals with the change of lifestyles throughout the film. She continues to be strong despite Ray’s love affairs with backup singers like Hendricks and Mary Ann (Aunjanue Ellis), and the effects of life on the road, which led to his heroine addiction.

Bea is the one figure of strength throughout “Ray.” She puts up with his downward spiral and makes him realize that the most important things in life are worth fighting for.

Though there are many breakout performances in “Ray” no one outshines Foxx’ portrayal of the musical genius.

From mimicking his fingers on the piano to walking around with his eyes shut throughout shooting, Foxx -best known as a comedian- shines through his dramatic portrayal of Ray. On screen for almost every minute of the film’s two-and-a-half hours, Foxx fills every scene with the dignity and energy Ray Charles had.

By the end of “Ray” the audience will realize how even the brightest musical icons are still and always will be people with the same highs and lows as anyone else. From showing how Charles had to overcome hurtful judgments because of his blindness to his development into one of the great innovators of music, “Ray” is a must-see.

“Ray,” directed by Taylor Hackford, is in theaters now from Universal Pictures. The film is rated PG-13.