Ray Charles’ Memorial Service Included Country Thread

Ray Charles’ connection to country music was duly noted during Friday’s (June 18) memorial service for the music pioneer. The service at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles included Willie Nelson’s emotional performance of “Georgia on My Mind” and Glen Campbell’s rendition of the gospel standard “Where Could I Go But to the Lord.” Actor Clint Eastwood pointed out Charles’ contributions to country music by saying, “He worked so hard to be a perfectionist who entertained us all. He was also a great teacher. He taught us all about the blues. … He taught us about country music. He re-instilled our interest in patriotic songs. Anything he touched was just brilliant.” Even the church’s pastor, the Rev. Cecil L. Murray, quoted lyrics from Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light” during the eulogy. Other musicians at the memorial service included Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Wynton Marsalis, Little Richard and Johnny Mathis. As the ceremony closed, those attending the private service walked past the open casket while hearing Charles’ final recording — a duet with Mathis on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”