BBC Interview with Ray Charles
from Thursday April 12, 2001

     This assignment is a bit long and may be somewhat difficult because of the two accents used: standard British English, and the variety of Black American English which Ray Charles speaks. Also, Real Player files are compressed and the sound quality is not as good as with some other formats. However, if you prepare the vocabulary first, read some of the background material, and listen to the file more than once, you should be able eventually to understand most of the recording, at least the parts needed to answer the listening comprehension questions.

I. First, link to this URL to read a bit about Ray Charles: The Father Of Soul on the BBC Web site.

2. Next, prepare the vocabulary below, looking up the words you don't know. Then read through the listening comprehension questions.

3. Now link to the following Real Player file and listen to the entire interview.

4. Listen a second (third...) time to answer the listening comprehension questions. You can type your answers into a computer file as you listen.

5. For more information on Ray Charles, you can visit his own Web site at:

Listening Comprehension Questions:
1. How does Ray Charles say he feels about his audience?
2. What does Ray Charles hope his music will do for his audience?
3. How old is Charles now?
4. How many months of the year is Ray Charles 'on the road'?
5. How long has he been giving concerts worldwide?
6. What state was Ray Charles born in?
7. Describe Ray Charles' first contact with music.
8. What did Charles say he especially thanks Mr. Pitman for not doing?
9. How did Charles try to play the piano the first time he tried?
10. What two major traumas did Charles experience when he was very young?
11. What kind of music did Charles study in school?
12. Why did Charles feel restricted by the style of music he was learning?
13. What kind of music did Charles do more and more of?
14. What happened in 1945? How did this event affect Charles?
15. How old was Charles when he went to Seattle?
16. Why does the reporter say Charles was 'always his own man'?
17. What does Charles try to do in every song he sings?
18. Give an example of how racial segregation was once enforced in the U.S. South.
19. Ray Charles says he was not very interested in political activism, but he did on occasion express his rejection of racial segregation. How did he do this?
20. What did Charles say he could and couldn't do for Dr. Martin Luther King's cause?
21. How did Martin Luther King's death affect Charles?
22. Which other 'divided community' did Charles perform for during the 1980s?
23. What charity work does Charles support?
24. What reason does Charles give for the kind of charity work he supports?
25. How does Charles feel about deafness as a handicap? About blindness?
26. Why was Charles once arrested?
27. What did he do about his problem, and how did he do it?
28. What, according to Charles, do we learn from our defeats?
29. According to Charles, playing chess has 'nothing to do with sight', but with what instead?
30. What feelings does Charles express about his native country?
31. Why is Charles 'always happy when I wake up in the morning'?

Hit the Road Jack poor and black Rachmaninov Atlantic
enjoyment strict Bach You Don't Know Me
to respond to racial segregation classical music hits
to make s.o. happy encounter concert pianist great favorites
to send a message neighborhood store to grow older one of many
that's not me general store to realize to name
for about an hour & a half bread, kerosene, sugar rigid a personal favorite
to forget about problems community in the sense that to sound kind of weird
troubles soda, candy on the page truth
to smile stuff like that to improvise to speak for itself
to clap one's hands Mr. Pitman extra notes, chords its own meaning
to stomp one's feet beat-up piano to get in trouble with to put oneself into
to whistle make an impression on to add stuff lyrics
to hit the road = travel immediately  to raise Cain with s.o. I Can't Stop Loving You
to spend buddy curious I've made up my mind
to tour worldwide to jump in the chair how it would sound if to live in memories
17-piece orchestra to bang on the keys to put myself into it of a lonesome time
backing singers marvelous get more involved with fun song
The Raelettes to practice hooked for you, Mama put oneself into the mood
Paris, Warsaw, Tokyo Get away! sling your weight around what the song is dictating
concerts so kind to break s.o. it's kind of like asking me
to sell out fists to get through carry its own thing
enduring fingers to take oneself off to to be hard pressed to
among performers to tap out a melody Seattle growing upheaval
equally difficulties in store to form a band Black community
to be at home singing as well The McSon Trio policy of racial segregation
jazz to witness Nat King Cole to crumble
gospel to drown Charles Brown never openly used
country to lose his sight Dizzy Gillespie increasing prominence
rhythm and blues blind Charlie Parker  lobby for political change
in spite of best chance at a time when on occasion
blind gain greater independence musicians to take a stand against
customary state school were expected to Black and White audiences
rock and roll lifestyle miles jazz, folk or blues to grow up in the South
drugs, women to afford to refuse to be in a small town
more than a man's share of train fare to be tied down to as a child
human tragedy basket weaving any one style a way of life
above all Braille attitude to come into the world
to remain at the top jazz appreciation to serve one well nothing to compare it with
of one's profession Beethoven to sign to do concerts
decades Sibelius independent to realize
"Georgia" Chopin rhythm and blues label upstairs, downstairs

to get sued genuine go on tour American involvement
to perform more precious than be arrested Vietnam war
as long as the crowd was diamonds, silver, gold drug offenses sharpen the country's
to lose the case amazing possible jail sentence political consciousness
naturally to be shot heroin popular music
not to care tremendous effect on be determined to to take on
only thing that happened a grown man kick the habit a note of protest
make no money to cry over hospital to release
as the pressure grew for be distraught about to cure powerful
greater political equality over the years physical addiction album
make a commitment to divided communities without any medicine show the point that
civil rights leader South Africa to go cold turkey to die for
Martin Luther King apartheid literally to annoy
refuse to accept to be adamant fellow patient marvelous
the view that mankind purpose introduce one to to brag
tragically bound to entertainment new passion to be honest
starless midnight of protest game of chess address problems
racism and war to surprise one guy verses
the bright daybreak raise money for nothin' else to do unofficial
peace, brotherhood enjoyment naturally national anthem
reality to respond to beat someone at didn't go (succeed)
appreciate various places defeats appeal to s.o.
respect turmoil what not to do stand up for
temperament to uplift the next time not to care for
to let s.o. hit me to deny Bobby Fisher message
to spit in my face pleasure (chess champion) the closest Ray was going to get to
to take it privately fair to express
to work with s.o. support a cause Honey politics
to do concerts to get into nothin' to do with straighten out
to raise money foundation memory that's wrong with
contribution deaf children pieces on the board in spite of
to the cause sight touch the board music studio
venues kids horse, bishop what he likes best
that was it sign language rook, pawn make music
Alfred Nobel spell with one's fingers luck no reason to stop
accept an award to lose so much outthink still alive
in the spirit of to be blind opponent I Feel so Good
curator if you have to be one or the other same amount of pieces wake up in the morning
precious heirloom be open to you who winds up with alive
to hold in trust smart, intelligent the king in check blessing
true owners to get around end of an era  
truth, beauty take care of yourself assassination