Soul is a funny thing. You can dress it up, press records of it, put it on film—but there’s always some surge of inspiration you can’t quite nail down.

And another thing about soul: it always looks good.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Ray Charles…

Perfectly Embodied:
Check the shades. Check the tie. And once you’re done taking in that air of Draper-esque professionalism, start wondering how it felt for a black piano player from Georgia to get a penthouse hotel room in Paris in 1962. (Judging by his face, it felt pretty damn good.) And then start wondering which of his female acquaintances was holding the camera…

Words of Wisdom:
Love is a special word, and I use it only when I mean it. You say the word too much and it becomes cheap.

But sex is something else. I’m not sure that there can ever be too much sex. To me, it’s another one of our daily requirements — like eating. If I go twenty-four hours without it, I get hungry.

The Backstory:
Charles wore his appetites lightly, from his Hefner-esque relationship with his backup singers to the look of stunned joy he usually had while playing. It’s worlds away from the feigned indifference we usually think of as cool, but Ray never cared. As it turns out, there’s nothing wrong with pleasure.

And while it might seem strange to be handing out style laurels to a man who couldn’t appreciate his own outfits, he’s got another lesson for us: style’s about more than looking at yourself in the mirror.

Here’s a few songs for the road:

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom