In the 40 years since Ray Charles first recorded “America the Beautiful” (on his album, Message from the People), it has become perhaps the best-loved and most widely known version of Katherine Lee Bates’ great patriotic hymn. That’s not surprising. In addition to his talents as a composer and bandleader, Ray Charles is arguably the most influential interpreter of American popular song over the last 60 years.
In fact, Charles’ interpretation is so popular that it’s easy to overlook how radically he revamped Bates’ song—both lyrically and theologically. Read the rest of this entry »