'What'd I Say'

American singer, pianist and songwriter Ray Charles performs in concert. i

American singer, pianist and songwriter Ray Charles performs in concert. Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Hulton Archive/Getty Images
American singer, pianist and songwriter Ray Charles performs in concert.

American singer, pianist and songwriter Ray Charles performs in concert.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

One night on tour in 1959, Ray Charles had run out of material, and needed to fill time before getting offstage. According to Charles, the song he improvised on the spot is really "about nothing" — the lyrics "don't make sense," he says, and it's not much more than a simple call-and-response exercise.

But from the audience's response that night, Ray Charles knew he had a hit — so he recorded it a few weeks later. "What'd I Say" went on to become one of his all-time best-selling songs, a number he would continue to play as an encore throughout the rest of his life.

Robert Siegel talks to the pianist and singer about his trademark 1959 hit.

Purchase Featured Music

What'd I Say

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
What'd I Say
Artist
Ray Charles
Label
Atlantic
Released
1959

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.