September 12, 2010

Let's Discuss Ray Stevens, Part Eight...

Welcome one and all to the Ray Stevens Music Journey. Whenever I write a greeting like that I imagine myself standing in the center ring at a circus. The music of Ray Stevens sometimes can parallel a's filled with thrills, spills, chills, and frolic. Sometimes the music can keep one on the edge of their seats and at other times there's high drama within the lyrics. In more recent years there's been less high drama in the lyrics and more high drama in his career...thanks in part to a string of politically aware songs.

I feel as if it's an accurate thing to say that everything's still beautiful in Ray Stevens' career right now. A lot of bloggers and those in the media have often taken the title, "Everything is Beautiful", and re-worded it or played around with it's message in an attempt to describe what their piece would be about. Typically the critics/bloggers want to draw comparisons of 1970 and 2010 and complain how "awful, terrible..." it is that the man who gave us "Everything is Beautiful" can now suddenly be a "right-winger...". This sort of complaining shows the political leanings of the blogger/critic and the funny part is they don't hide or conceal that their anger stems from a political difference.

The funny thing is the 5 or 10 percent of those who oppose Ray's political opinions in song would be falling all over him if his opinions matched theirs. This is why I don't take his opposition seriously. He's clearly speaking to a majority of people which is who Ray was speaking to when he performed "Everything is Beautiful" in 1970. If you truly analyze Ray's 1970 single you'd find out that Ray was delivering social commentary to the public as a whole. The song questions why the majority, himself included, are caught up in religious, racial, and political differences and if we could stop that kind of thing everyone would realize how similar everyone else is to one another regardless of social or physical differences. Certainly a single like that was in step with the majority of the country in 1970...the funny thing is a lot of people who hear that song today, for whatever reason, get embarrassed by how happy and optimistic it sounds.

Could this be a reflection on how society today operates? Is optimism and happiness now in the minority replaced by pessimism and anger? See, if one looks at it like that, you can clearly see how Ray was speaking to the majority of people in 1970 and you can see how he's speaking to the majority in 2010. Obviously the majority point of view in 2010 doesn't necessarily match 1970...and so that's where this current divide comes from. The 1970 majority is no longer in the's as simple as that.

During my self-imposed break from writing this particular blog "God Save Arizona" has risen to 241,711 hits on You Tube.

Yesterday was the 9th anniversary of 9/11 and I was tempted to write a blog and feature Ray's 9/11 song, "Osama Yo' Mama", but I held off doing so. I figured that with all of the 9/11 blogs and news stories that would be written that mine would get lost among the more serious blogs. This isn't to say mine would've been full of laughs but anytime people see the name, Ray Stevens, they automatically think laughter and comedy. I remember back in late 2001, a few months after 9/11, when Ray debuted "Osama Yo' Mama". I thought back then and still think today that the song and music video are funny. This isn't to say everyone appreciated a light-hearted look at the tragedy. A particular music critic, whose name I forget, attacked Ray for not taking 9/11 seriously by choosing to deliver a novelty song when the country "needed and wanted something serious". Is that so? In case that critic forgot...Ray is known for singing novelty songs...what did this critic actually expect? I also recall a slightly negative review of Ray's early 2002 album, Osama Yo' Mama: The Album. This was titled in that manner to differentiate between the CD single and the full-length CD which featured the same picture sleeve.

Anyway, a critic who reviewed the album lamented that "novelty albums don't hold up over the course of time; they overstay their welcome and while mildly amusing at the start become annoying mid-way through". Of course I'm paraphrasing the review...if there was something positive said I missed it. Perhaps the critic may have given Ray a backhanded compliment of some kind but I only remember the harsh criticism. One critic made the comment that topical humor doesn't have much durability. No kidding...this is news to me!!

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