Rock and roll? "A couple of guitars together with a backbeat," huffed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame charter member Ray Charles in 1959. But he dug almost everything else back then. The blues and gospel he married on "I Got a Woman," the jazz he roughed up at Newport, and the country he redefined with "I Can't Stop Loving You" were just the obvious stuff. He treasured choral accompaniment and string accompaniment, big bands and bebop, pre–World War I chestnuts and jump blues comedy and chansons translated by his French girlfriend. Born in 1930 and a pro by 1945, he spent his last four decades not as a rhythm-and-blues genius but as a pop polymath. He presaged Otis Redding less than he did Billy Joel—or really, since the main thing he liked about songwriting was royalties, Linda Ronstadt... More >>>