Ray Charles and Joe Cocker Waited a Long Time For This
Back in the 60’s to the 80’s, there was a place called My Father’s Place on Long Island. Joe Cocker had an early show out there on one Friday night. I think he went on at 7:30 or something. We were done at like, 9:30.
Ray Charles was playing at Carnegie Hall. Joe had never met Ray Charles. There was this incredible mad dash to get to Carnegie Hall. We didn’t have a police escort, but it felt like we did. We were going 90-100 miles/hour, a few cars, just weaving through traffic, and bolting our way into New York trying to get there on time. We got there about ten minutes late and Ray had already gone onstage. As it ended up, that was alright, because we met Ray after the show.
We waited about five minutes before they let us come in. Ray’s sitting in his dressing room and he was the only person in that dressing room. Imagine a rectangular room, divide the rectangle in half, and then in the front half of the rectangle you have two couches facing each other and a coffee table. One couch is against the wall and then there’s a coffee table, and the other couch is facing out into the open half of the back of the rectangle. On the back part of the rectangle, that’s wide open back there. It’s just got road cases and stuff like that back there.
I get worked up when I tell the story. I remember how I felt, become illogical, and don’t think as clearly, which somebody pointed out to me. As I tell you the story, you’ll understand what I mean by this.
“I’ve waited a long time for this.” – Ray Charles
First of all, what happens is, before we walk in the room, I thought Joe was going to burst into tears. Joe idolized Ray Charles. I don’t mean he liked him – he idolized him. He gets in the room and grabs Ray and before he can get a word out of his mouth, Ray Charles says, “I’ve waited a long time for this.” Joe almost melted into a puddle right there on the spot as they hugged and that was really sweet.
Everybody shook hands and sat down. The three of us sat down on the couch that was next to the wall – Joe on the middle, me on the right, and Joe’s manager on the left. On the other couch sat Ray.
Joe sits down and the first thing he does is gets out a cigarette. Ray reaches down to the table, grabs some matches, lights the match, and puts it up to the cigarette. I don’t say that Joe didn’t help a little bit as to aiming the match in the right place but, boy, I’ll tell you what, if you didn’t know he was blind, you would have sworn he wasn’t. That match went right up to that cigarette, he lit a cigarette, and I was like, “Wow.”
We were talking and all these stories were flying back and forth. It was amazing. Ray is telling this particular story that he was really worked up about and very animated. He would move his legs when he played that piano. He did that thing where he’d swing his legs open and back. He was doing that and his arms were flying around and he was talking in a feverish pitch. Right in the middle of the story, he holds his arm up in the air and says, “No, no. That doesn’t go in there” to this guy that’s packing the case behind him.
Joe, his manager, and I looked at each other. It was a weird moment. Like I said, I get excited and might not even be logical about this moment. It seemed Ray had such acute hearing that he could hear the drawers opening. He was so familiar with being alone in this situation and when they’re packing the stuff up, he could tell whether it was a belt or whatever the hell it was and recognize the sound of the right drawer. Who knows? Whatever it was, he did that two or three times over the course of this hour and that was wild.
I was reminded of… there was a thing that happened too with a refrigerator. There’s a thing that I saw in a show, a documentary? – Aretha and Ray were in it – and the same exact thing happened where he went over to the refrigerator to get something that was in a carton (like a milk carton). It could’ve been an orange juice or pineapple juice or whatever it was. He went right to the exact right one and poured a glass.
When Aretha sees him doing it, she says, “How’d you do that?” He says, “I know where everything is.”
Just like that, he just answered, very quick. Ray was different.