Let us tear off their shackles from us, and cast off their chains. -Psalm 2:3
You’ve got me sewed up like a pillow case
But you let my love go to waste so
Unchain my heart, oh please, please set me free
Why do we hold on to things that are not good for us? Why do we languish in prisons of our own making. Why can’t we simply “walk away, Renee”?
Our strongest attractions are often riddled with contradictions. Like sweet and sour pork.
I was watching “American Hustle” the other night and it struck me that the whole movie was built around not only the “hustle” itself, but a scene where Irving Rosenfeld’s wife Rosalyn says something to Carmine’s wife about her favorite nail polish: “There’s something, the topcoat. It’s like, perfum-ey, but there’s also something…rotten. And I know that sounds crazy, but I can’t get enough of it.”
That just about sums it up.
Every time I call you on the phone
Some fella tells me that you’re not at home
We’ll even go so far sometimes as to suffer humiliation. We just take it and go back for more. We can’t help ourselves. I can’t even begin to count the number of songs written from that book.
I’m under your spell like a man in a trance
But I know darn well, that I don’t stand a chance
Sometimes those closest to us, hurt us the most.
Jesus knew before the cock crowed about Peter’s denials. And surely He knew what Judas was going to do. He stuck with them, though. And we all know where that led. Of course, in this case, it was all just a part of the plan.
Unchain my heart, let me go my way
Unchain my heart, you worry me night and day
Do we secretly savor the pain and the love mixed together? Does the occasional bad grape make the wine even better? Does the combination of heart-break and heart-race make the love even sweeter? Does the bad feeling make the good feeling that much stronger?
Why lead me through a life of misery
When you don’t care a bag of beans for me
So unchain my heart, oh please, please set me free
Though it was much later in life that Frank Sinatra gave him the label, the “genius” of Ray Charles actually began when he first started playing the piano at the age of three. It’s a good thing he got a jump on it, as Ray was totally blind from glaucoma by age seven.
The “genius” label stuck (and certainly well deserved if you ask me) but Ray himself deflected such acclaim, saying: “Art Tatum, now he’s a genius…and Einstein, not me.”
The genius of Ray Charles spanned over 6 decades of recording over 60 albums and 127 singles and bridging every musical genre available.
And certainly Ray was no stranger to holding on to things that were not good for him.
His drug addiction problems were well known. And his rehab stint in 1965 was followed by the release of the songs “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and “Let’s Go Get Stoned” on his very next LP (Crying Time) in 1966.
He was twice married and divorced, and fathered 12 children with 10 different women.
Musicologist, Henry Pleasants, once summed Ray up this way: “Sinatra and Crosby before him, had been masters of words. Ray Charles is a master of sounds. His records disclose an extraordinary assortment of slurs, glides, turns, shrieks, wails, breaks, shouts, screams and hollers, all wonderfully controlled, disciplined by inspired musicianship, and harnessed to ingenious subtleties of harmony, dynamics and rhythm… It is either the singing of a man whose vocabulary is inadequate to express what is in his heart and mind or of one whose feelings are too intense for satisfactory verbal or conventionally melodic articulation. He can’t tell it to you. He can’t even sing it to you. He has to cry out to you, or shout to you, in tones eloquent of despair — or exaltation. The voice alone, with little assistance from the text or the notated music, conveys the message.”
Once during an interview, Ray was asked if there was any particular element in his musical style that had been most essential to his long running popularity. “Yeah”, he replied, “Me.”
So let yourself off the hook and take comfort in the fact that it happens to all of us. Sometimes, even when a thing is really, really bad, it’s very, very good.
Listen to a little of the genius here: