10 | Ray Charles – Georgia On My Mind

Music, Storytelling

For the one year anniversary of Play It Back, musician, chanteuse, book lover, and performer extraordinaire Susan Hwang helps us celebrate by telling us a little something about her dad, Ray Charles, and The American Dream.

About Susan Hwang

Susan Hwang is a blues musician and all around musical performer who tells stories through things that are usually collapsible, like songs, experiences, and times. Her instruments of choice include accordion, the janggu traditional Korean drum, piano, and drums. Susan claims that she plays accordions because they are pretty and lighter than pianos (barely).

She’s has toured internationally with East Village theater company, Yara Arts, and she just got done playing the goddess Ishtar in Phoebe Kreutz’s epic joke-folk musical, “Go! Go! Gilgamesh!” which won awards in this year’s FRIGID NY Festival.

Her TV variety talk show, The La La La Show is broadcast into thin air via the Manhattan Neighborhood Network and online via Vimeo. Susan founded, curates, and hosts The Bushwick Book Club, a monthly performance series with chapters across the country and around the world that presents original works by local musicians, artists and even chefs based upon select works of literature.

As if this isn’t enough of a literary fix, Susan has duo with songwriter/producer Charlie Nieland called Lusterlit, in which the musicians refuse to play anything other than songs about books.

You can follow Susan on Instagram @soozee3 and on Twitter @soozeehwang.

Five Extra Tidbits Concerning Ray Charles’s “Georgia On My Mind

1. “Georgia On My Mind” was written in 1930 and recorded by songwriters Hoagie Carmichael and Stuart Gorell, two gents from Indiana. But it was in 1960 that the song really took off, thanks to a recording by Georgia native Ray Charles on his album The Genius Hits the Road. In fact, it became Ray’s first #1 hit in the USA, when he was still in his late 20s.

2. Contrary to what the 2004 biopic “Ray” might have suggested, it is a MYTH that Ray Charles was forever banned from performing in his own home state when he broke a contract to play at a venue once he discovered that it planned on segregating the audience by race. Ray did back out of his performance at the Bell Auditorium (restored in 1989 and now a part of the Jame Brown Arena) on March 15,1961. He did get sued by the venue. And, according to an Associated Press report, the soul pioneer did pay $757 for his breach of contract. But he was certainly not banned from performing again in his own home state, as was proven when he sang it before the Georgia General Assembly on March 7, 1979, prompting the state to adopt it “Georgia On My Mind” as its official song the following April.

3. Randomly enough, the 1980s sitcom Designing Women adopted the song as its theme, but it’s so saxed out that you’d hardly know it if it wasn’t for your friends here at Play It Back!

4. Musicians who have covered, sampled, and performed this iconic song include the likes of Usher, Ludacris feat. Field Mob, Michael Bolton (even though he’s from New Haven, Connecticut!), and Annie Lennox (even though she’s from Aberdeen, Scotland)! And, of course, Jamie Foxx, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of the musician in “Ray.”

5. Enjoy this 1986 performance of Georgia by Ray Charles with Willie Nelson, who was not only Ray’s duet partner but also chess playing buddy. If you crave something edgier, try “Georgia Bush,” Lil Wayne’s satire of Dubya.

Do you have someone, some place, or some time on your mind after hearing Susan’s reminiscences about the song that keeps her father and the American Dream forever on her mind and in her heart? Let us know at playitbackradio@gmail.com, or venture another story for the show.

You can subscribe to us on iTunes to hear past, present, and future episodes that feature amazing folks dishing about the most influential songs of their lives. By the way, your ratings and comments help us curate our content better to your tastes, so pray tell what you love, hate, and appreciate thus far! Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, too. We’d love to see more of you and have you hear more of us.

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