Maceo Parker: Channeling Charles

< Back

Friday May 18, 2018

From The Australian

Maceo Parker: Channelling Charles, via James Brown and Prince
By: Andra Jackson

Maceo Parker was just 18 when he made a vow outside the dressing-room of his idol Ray Charles. Parker had attended a concert by the blind soul singer-pianist and, in the afterglow of hearing him, found his way to the dressing-room area to feel closer. ‘I was all alone and speaking to the air and I said, ‘Mr Ray Charles, I don’t know how I’m going to do it but one of these days you are going to want to know me, you are going to know me.’ ‘

It was 1961. Three decades later, that vow came to fruition when the saxophonist was opening act for a Charles tour. ‘It all happened,’ Parker recounts, the excitement still evident in his voice. ‘It was like a spirit, something that was bound to happen.’ On meeting the soul star, Parker says: ‘I didn’t want to bore him but I did want to say to him that ‘me and my brothers had loved you for a long, long time’. And I got a chance to be on stage with him for one song.’

[…] ‘I wanted to promote love. For me, it is all about love and it is the title of a Ray Charles song.’ Parker’s latest CD, It’s All About Love, carries the same message. Every track is a love song. ‘I don’t really try to imitate Ray Charles but my voice is sort of similar to his anyway,’ Parker says.

A key to the authenticity of the Parker tribute is music director Steve Sigmund. He played first trombone in the Ray Charles ­Orchestra for 20 years.

Parker attributes the enduring appeal of Charles’s songs to ‘when I first heard him, it sounded to me like he had really experienced everything that he sang’. To illustrate, Parker sings a plaintive couple of lines down the phone: ‘Out on the job, work like the devil for my pay.’ It felt like he had done all that, he says.

Read more here