In his song “Got to Go Back,” Van Morrison starts off by saying he used to look out the window and daydream at school, then go home and “listen to Ray sing ‘I Believe to My Soul’ after school.” The point is the contrast between what you do for school and what you do for your soul, what you do for education and what you do for your self. I believed in my soul, after school. In school, not so much.
Recently, I got around to picking up some Ray Charles recordings. I decided to start with the famed Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, doubled with Volume 2, from 1962. And so, today, on Ray Charles’ birthday I pay tribute with a song from part 1. Even though it's an album that went some way to help popularize the “Nashville sound” beyond Nashville I'm OK with it. Charles took that sound, with his arrangements of C&W songs, into a Big Band direction, but, because he’s Ray Charles, one of the premier pop vocalists of all time, he also extended the Nashville sound toward blues and R&B. All that makes it a very influential album, in that way that genre-bending tends to be, even if “purists object” initially.
As this week of posts (marking a week Wednesday to Wednesday as I’ve been doing) began with Hank Williams’ “You Win Again”—a song given a great reading by Charles on Modern Sounds—I thought I might end the week with another Williams song Charles recorded, on Volume 2: “Take These Chains from My Heart” with its plea that, if the beloved loves somebody new, “let me find a new love too.” And I also considered the well-known tune—second track on Modern Sounds—“You Don’t Know Me,” a stirring expression of unspoken love by someone who looks on as the one he loves—who knows him only as a friend—goes off with her guy. But the song that leaped out and grabbed me last week is "It Makes No Difference Now."
Mainly it’s the vocal, the piano, the syncopation of the horns, and the telling lack of back-up chorus. I’m pretty tough on back-up choruses, I gotta admit. I like the way Ray sings it, kinda down and dirty, shrugging his way through a certain someone’s indifference. He loved her and thought she loved him too. But, guess not. Oh well, it makes no difference now.
Probably, more than anything, it was the opening that grabbed me: Makes no difference now what kind of life fate hands me / I’ll get along without you now, it’s plain to see / I don’t care what happens next, I’ll forget somehow / And I don’t worry ’cause it makes no difference now
It seems to me a suitable autumnal thought, good for the start of the year’s final stretch. Whatever that was all about (2014, heh), it makes no difference now. Then there’s the great way he levels with the line: “I don’t blame myself and I’m sure I can’t blame you.” It’s not exactly forgiving. It’s more like: well, what is there to point blame about anyway? “There was something had to happen and it did somehow.” Vague enough for ya?
Give a listen to how Eddy Arnold does it—with that lively picking and a sweet fiddle in the background. It’s peppier, very “what, me worry?” The melody is tricked out more nicely and no doubt would have people singing along more easily, whereas Ray’s goes for a bit more cool jazz hurt because he lets the piano do any lively capering that’s needed and the horns are in a kind of lock-step, and his delivery of the title line gets so many different shadings it never fails to fascinate. He even gets a bit of lonesome hound dog moan into the thing. This is a guy still coming to grips but he knows that walking the fine blues line of the song makes him feel so fucking good that nothing else much matters anyhow. “Let things happen as they will.”
After all is said and done I’ll forget you