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The Great Songs: Ray Charles – That Lucky Old Sun

by Eric Melin on September 29, 2010

in Columns,The Great Songs

Ingredients_In_A_Recipe_For_Soul-ray charles

To listen to the entire song “That Lucky Old Sun” by Ray Charles, click here.

There are hundreds of great Ray Charles songs,and certainly “What’d I Say” and “Georgia on my Mind” are among his best-known classics. But I picked this song, first performed by Frankie Laine in 1949 with music by Beasley Smith and words by Haven Gillespie.

Charles covered this tune on his crossover hit album “Ingredients in a Recipe for Soul” from 1963. In the late 50s, Charles had a lot of R&B-charting hits, but by this time he was a hit on the Pop charts as well and was reaching white audiences. His classic albums “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” and its sequel “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 2” were both behind him by this point as well.

He had gone from having a more pure, raw R&B sound to using backup singers and orchestras and performing old standards like this one. Sure, some of the tunes had a little too much instrumentation to try to appeal to a wider audience, but most of the time (like on this song), Charles’ heartfelt vocal style shone through.

“That Lucky Old Sun” contrasts a day where he is “Up in the mornin’/Out on the job” and working “like the devil” for his pay with that of the “lucky old sun,” which has no troubles: “I know that lucky old sun, has nothin’ to do, but roll around heaven all day.”

The melody is sad and uplifting at the same time, and Charles’ voice stings with such heartache and pain. Each time I hear it I get kind of choked up. Here the singers and orchestra complement the vocals perfectly. Everything exists to support his lead without walking all over it. Even the bridge section where they take the lead just sets up the last part of the song.

Even though it feels like a snapshot from another time, there’s something about Charles’ “That Lucky Old Sun” that connects you immediately with that time and becomes sort of a shared experience. If you ever want a song that speaks to the loneliness and hardship, this is it. And when you are down and you think you’ve got it hard, trust me, someone else has had it harder. Ray isn’t the only one asking for “that cloud with the silver lining.”

The Great Songs series so far:

The Great Songs: Big Star – Thirteen

The Great Songs: The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset

The Great Songs: The Jayhawks – Blue

The Great Songs: Pavement – Summer Babe

The Great Songs: The Zombies – Care of Cell 44

The Great Songs: The O’Jays – Back Stabbers

The Great Songs: Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure

The Great Songs: George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today

The Great Songs: Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

The Great Songs: KISS – Deuce

The Great Songs: The Flying Burrito Brothers – Hot Burrito #1

The Great Songs: The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize??

The Great Songs: Pink Floyd – Astronomy Domine

The Great Songs: The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up

The Great Songs: Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get it On

The Great Songs: Slayer – Angel of Death

The Great Songs: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Beyond Belief

The Great Songs: The Replacements – Unsatisfied

The Great Songs: Cheap Trick – Surrender

The Great Songs: Guided by Voices – Motor Away

The Great Songs: The Louvin Brothers – Knoxville Girl

The Great Songs: Badfinger – Baby Blue

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes for The Pitch. He’s former President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls, Ultimate Fakebook, and Truck Stop Love . He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 dbmurray September 29, 2010 at 3:55 pm

This is one of my all-time favorite songs. I always enjoying hearing it no matter who is singing, but my favorite version is by Jerry Lee Lewis on the _Great Balls Of Fire Soundtrack_.

The Ray Charles version is smooth as silk…the Lewis version is gritty as gravel.


2 Eric Melin September 29, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Thanks for the comment, DB! Glad to know I am not alone. Any chance you have a link to Jerry Lee’s?


3 dbmurray September 29, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Here ya go:

I love how Lewis inserts his trademark glissandos no matter the tempo.


4 dbmurray September 29, 2010 at 9:39 pm

I know it wasn’t intentional, but have you noticed that your print review titles currently in the right column make sentences.

Hatchet buried!
Let me in, Catfish…I’m still here!


5 Eric Melin September 30, 2010 at 7:22 am

Ha ha ha ha–nice! Thx for pointing that out. Jerry Lee’s version is pretty badass.


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