Morehouse Hosts Unveiling of USPS “Forever” Stamp Honoring Music Icon Ray Charles
24 Sep 2013
Posted by Add Seymour Jr.
By ADD SEYMOUR JR. – Country and pop superstar icon Kenny Rogers remembers being a young teenager in Houston seeing Ray Charles in concert for the first time.
“I remember thinking how cool it was that they laughed at everything he said, they clapped for everything he sang, and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ It was a wonderful experience for me. I never heard anyone ‘feel’ music like that.
“Ray Charles wasn’t just my friend,” Rogers said Tuesday to a near capacity crowd in the Emma and Joe Adams Concert Hall inside the Morehouse College Ray Charles Performing Arts Center, “he was my inspiration.”
That kind of influence is one of many reasons why the United States Postal Service honored Charles as the third person in their Music Icon Series with a “Forever” stamp, which was unveiled on September 23 – which would have been the native Georgian’s 83rd birthday.
“I can’t think of a more perfect place to dedicate our new Ray Charles commemorative “Forever” stamp than this performing arts center named in his honor,” said William Campbell, judicial officer for the United States Postal Service.
Charles had a long-standing relationship with Morehouse and gave millions of dollars to invest in the education of young musicians.
A few months following Charles’ death in June 2004, the College, with host Bill Cosby, celebrated his extraordinary life with “A Tribute to Ray Charles” on September 29, 2004, in Beverly Hills, Calif. The star-studded tribute featured many of Charles’ friends and protégés in the entertainment industry–including Kenny Rogers– and launched the $20-million fund-raising campaign that led to the building of the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center.
“With his generous investment in us, he put his stamp on Morehouse College, in this building, and that has strengthened us to put our stamp on so many young men in this country,” said Morehouse President John Silvanus Wilson Jr. ’79.
Campbell said Charles’ was being honored not only for his investment in people and causes, particularly education, but also for his legendary 58-year career where he broke down the boundaries of jazz, R&B, country and gospel music with songs such as “I’ve Got a Woman,” “What I’d Say,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and “Georgia On My Mind.” He did all that while being blind and battling a number of personal challenges most of his life.
“He became the personification of the American dream,” Campbell said. “Friends, today we honor a man who not only had an incomparable impact on the face of contemporary soul, gospel, R&B and rock, but he also touched people personally and individually.”
Before the stamp unveiling, the Morehouse College Glee Club performed a soulful rendition of “Georgia On My Mind.” Immediately following the stamp unveiling, R&B singer Ashanti sang a medley of Charles’ hits along with a few of her songs.
“He’s opened so many doors for artists such as me,” she said. “It’s a very humbling experience.”
His friend, Tony Gumina, president of the Ray Charles Marketing Group in Cleveland, Ohio, said Charles would have been humbled by the honor.
“It’s really incredible,” he said. I know he would be so honored here today to have this commemoration taking place at Morehouse. “