Single Stories: Ray Charles, “I Got A Woman”

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017
R&B
Soul
50s
Ray Charles
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Single Stories: Ray Charles, “I Got A Woman”

62 years ago today, Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman” hit its peak on Billboard’s R&B Singles chart, which provides us with an opportunity to tell its Single Story.

The reason “I Got a Woman” is considered such a classic track isn’t because it’s a great song, although it is. It’s because it was, by most people’s estimations, the first song to be described as “soul.” Although it’s generally used interchangeably with R&B nowadays, the term was originally intended to define a blend between R&B and gospel. That’s not entirely inappropriate, since “I Got a Woman” itself was actually constructed after Charles listened to The Southern Tones’ “It Must Be Jesus” on the radio.

With the assistance of his trumpeter, Renald Richard, Charles took a jazz-inspired background, paced it with the frenzy of a truly fired-up gospel song, and penned some secular lyrics. Produced by Jerry Wexler, the track was recorded in the Atlanta studios of radio station WGST, and it proved to be Charles’s big breakthrough.

Even now, “I Got a Woman” is considered to be one of Charles’ most classic tracks, appearing on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list, and it’s been a chart success for Jimmy McGriff, Freddie Scott, and Ricky Nelson. Probably the most notable cover, however, was by The Beatles, who recorded it a couple of times during BBC sessions. If that doesn’t tell you how influential the song was, nothing will.