Ray Charles

What'd I Say

Composed by Ray Charles

Song Review by

If not for a Midwestern dance gig that ran late, the world might have been forever deprived of Ray Charles' immortal "What'd I Say." Stuck for material at the end of a long evening, the incomparable Brother Ray began to improvise -- a jazzy electric piano fill here, a steamy call-and-response retort between Charles and his captivating Raeletts there -- and before the show was through, the genius had brainstormed one of his biggest sellers of all right there on the bandstand. Subsequently captured February 18, 1959, in a New York studio by Atlantic Records engineer Tom Dowd in brilliant stereo, "What'd I Say" ran so long at nearly six-and-a-half minutes that it had to be split on both sides of an Atlantic 45 for mass consumption. It was one of the most suggestive pieces ever aired on pop radio up to that time, the sexy banter between Charles and his female vocalists throughout part two becoming more ribald on every break (their sweaty sighs and groans left little to the imagination). Drummer Milt Turner lays down a magnificently complex syncopated rhythm under Charles' memorable electric piano riffs (his sinuous left-hand figure has been lifted too many times to count), front and center on an exceptionally lengthy intro that could have served as an instrumental all by itself and a 24-bar break midway through. Once the hubbub over Brother Ray's original -- an R&B chart-topper in the summer of 1959 that rose to number six on Billboard's pop charts (by far Charles' highest pop placement up to that time) -- died down, other artists paid tribute: Jerry Lee Lewis nailed his first hit in more than two years with a spirited rendition for Sun in the spring of 1961, Roy Orbison chimed in with an uncharacteristically raucous Nashville-cut version for Monument, and a lavish staging of the song in the 1964 Elvis Presley film Viva Las Vegas was one of the musical's highlights, libidinous sparks flying all over the set between Elvis and co-star Ann-Margret.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
What'd I Say 1959 Friday Music
Genius + Soul = Jazz 1960 American Jazz Classics
No Image 1961 Atlantic
No Image 1963 HMV
Apollo Saturday Night 1964
Various Artists
Rhino Atlantic 1:48
Live in Concert 1965 Concord 4:26
No Image 1966 Traditional Line
No Image 1967
Ray Charles Live [Atlantic] 1973 Rhino / Atlantic/WEA 4:01
No Image 1975 Concord 10:39
Oldies But Goodies: Legendary Hits 1979
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 6:27
No Image 1981 USA/IVE
No Image 1984 Charly Records
Atlantic Rhythm & Blues 1947-1974, Vol. 4 (1958-1962) 1985
Various Artists
Atlantic
Rockin' Down the Block, Vol. 2 1987
Various Artists
Silver Eagle Records 5:10
Rockin' Fifties 1988
Various Artists
JCI Associated Labels 6:26
No Image 1988 Rhino
The Genius 20 Greatest Hits 1988 Platinum Entertainment 4:28
No Image 1989 Spa
Atlantic Soul Classics [1985] 1990
Various Artists
Warner Music / Rhino 6:27
Live at the Apollo 1990
Various Artists
JCI Associated Labels 1:15
Unvergeßliche Songs 1992 Arcade Music 4:33
Oldies But Goodies, Vol. 13 1993
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 6:26
Genius of Soul [Video] 1993 Warner Reprise Video
No Image 1994 JMY
Art Laboe Killer Oldies 2 1995
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 6:26
Blues Is My Middle Name [St. Clair] 1995 St. Clair 4:59
Best of Oldies But Goodies, Vol. 12-13 1995
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 6:27
Genius of Ray Charles [Deuce] 1996 St. Clair / Boxsets 4:59
Berlin, 1962 1996 Pablo 3:52
No Image 1996 Excelsior Recordings
No Image 1997 La Mejor Musica/Promo Sound
Birth of Soul, Vol. 2 1998
Various Artists
Kent 5:06
Atlantic Records 50 Years: The Gold Anniversary 1998
Various Artists
Atlantic 6:28
Gold Collection [Retro] 1998 Retro Music 6:22
Forever Gold [Double Disc] 1999 St. Clair
The Very Best of Ray Charles [Rhino] 2000 Mastersong 6:28
Le Genius of Soul [Wea International] 2000 WEA International 6:29
Golden Legends [Direct Source] 2000 Direct Source 6:27
Soul Sensations [Direct Source] 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 6:26
20 Golden Classics 2000 Golden Music / Goldenlane 6:26
Georgia on My Mind [Mastersound] 2000 Mastersound 6:26
Best of Ray Charles [Appla] 2001 Appla
Georgia on My Mind [Laserlight] 2001 Double Pleasure 6:25
Late in the Evening [Park South/Town Sound] 2002 Park South Records / Town Sound 6:27
Thanks for Bringing Love Around Again 2002 Ooo Universal 5:30
Genius [TKO] 2002 Starburst Recordings 4:55
Georgia on My Mind [Import] 2002 St. Clair
At The Montreux Jazz Festival 2002 Pioneer
Blues & Soul Masters 2002
Various Artists
WEA International 4:23
Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival 2002 Geneon Entertainment / Pioneer 6:49
Essential Collection [Cleopatra] 2002 Cleopatra / Goldenlane 6:27
No Image 2002
Various Artists
St. Clair 6:28
Classic Soul Hits! [Direct Source 2003] 2003
Various Artists
Direct Source 6:26
Genius of Soul Live 2003 Fine Tune 6:21
Fabulous 50's [2003 Madacy Box] 2003
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 6:27
Ray, Rare and Live 2003 Universe 6:26
Hall of Fame 2003 Laserlight 6:28
All the 60's 2003
Various Artists
Warner Music 6:29
No Image 2003 Rhino 4:20
45 Great Performances 2003 Prism Leisure 6:27
Respect: The Soul Generation Soundtrack 2003
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 5:05
Fabulous 50s, Vol. 2 2003
Various Artists
Madacy 6:27
In Concert 2004 Rhino 4:22
20 Best of Blues 2004
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 6:27
Funk Soul Classics 2004
Various Artists
Ministry of Sound 6:26
Golden Era of Rock 'n' Roll: 1954-1963 2004
Various Artists
Hip-O 6:27
60's Soul Mix, Vol. 2 2004
Various Artists
Universal International 4:17
Georgia on My Mind/Rockin' Chair Blues 2004 Laserlight 6:28
Live '93 2004 Jazzdoor 3:53
American Soul 2004 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) / Brentwood Records 3:52
Ray [Original Soundtrack] 2004 Atlantic / WMG - Wagner Music Group / Rhino 4:38
What'd I Say: Live 2004 Solo 6:31
Ô-Genio: Live in Brazil, 1963 [DVD] 2004 Rhino
The Best of Ray Charles: Live 2004 St. Clair 5:01
Ray Charles [Columbia River] 2004 United Audio Entertainment 6:12
Legends and Heroes 2004
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 5:06
Live at the Olympia 2000 2005 Mk2 6:06
Golden Era of the 50's [Bonus DVD] 2005
Various Artists
Madacy 4:52
Ray Charles Live [St. Clair] 2005 St. Clair 4:59
Genius Anthology 2005 Cleopatra / Master Classics 3:09
The Collection [Rainbow] 2005 Brilliant / Rainbow Records 6:25
Anthology [United Multi Consign] 2005 AAO Music / Umme!!! 6:12
In Concert: I Can't Stop Loving You [DVD/Bonus CD] 2005 Immortal
Soul Genius - Live 2005 Hudson Street 4:50
Can Anyone Ask for More? 2005 Pure Gold (Germany)
The Best of R&B Soul 2005
Various Artists
Direct Source 4:51
The Best of Ultimate Vegas 2005
Various Artists
Madacy 6:21
Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959) 2005 Atlantic / Rhino/Warner Bros.
No Image 2005 Musicom/Hudson Street 6:25
A Celebration of Black Music 2005
Various Artists
Direct Source 5:02
Soul of a Man 2005 Green Hill Productions 2:59
Sultry Soul 2006
Various Artists
Laserlight 4:58
Golden Legends: Soul Legends 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 6:21
The Essentials [Big Eye] 2006 Fantastic Price Records / Big Eye/Fantastic Price 3:11
I Got a Woman [Ground Floor] 2006 Ground Floor
A Tribute to Jamie Foxx 2006
Various Artists
Big Eye Music / Da Hype Records 3:10
Live in Concert [Noble Price] 2006 MSI Music Distribution / NOBLE PRIC
Ray 2006
Ray
AAO Music / United Audio Entertainment 6:12
18 Greatest 2006 Direct Source 4:54
Fabulous 50s: Personality 2006
Various Artists
Laserlight 4:52
Kings of Blues [Weton] 2006
Various Artists
Cheap O Lata / Weton 4:52
100 Golden Oldies of the 50s, 60s & 70s 2006
Various Artists
Deja Vu 6:20
46 Titres Originaux 2006 Intense Records
Definitive Gold 2006 Deja Vu
Ray Charles [Promo Sound] 2006 Promo Sound 6:28
Greatest R&B Hits/Soul Explosion 2006
Various Artists
Direct Source Special 5:02
The Soul Story, Vol. 1 2006
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 5:08
Superstars of Black Music 2007
Various Artists
Direct Source 5:02
Forever Gold: Ray Charles 2007 St. Clair 5:01
50s R&B Soul Hits [Direct Source] 2007
Various Artists
Direct Source 4:54
Ray Charles & Friends [Stardust] 2007 Cleopatra / Stardust Records 6:26
Soul Story Infomercial Set 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 5:08
Northern Soul Box: 60s and 70s Gold Acts and Rare Grooves 2007
Various Artists
Stardust Records 3:11
Forever Ray Charles 2007 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 6:21
R&B Soul: Ray Charles/Percy Sledge 2007 Direct Source 6:27
Ray Charles [St. Clair] 2007 St. Clair 6:21
Ray Charles [Direct Source] 2007 Direct Source 4:54
This Is Stadium Anthems 2007
Various Artists
Dead Line Music 6:26
Music of Your Life: Best of Ray Charles 2008 TGG Direct / Diamond Recordings 3:54
The Gold Album 2008 Deja Vu / Recording Arts 6:07
No Image 2008 Delta / Delta Distribution
Best of Hits 2008 St. Clair 6:21
Remember the 60s [Immortal] 2008
Various Artists
Immortal
The Legend Lives On [Immortal] 2008 Immortal 2:15
100 Soul Classics 2009
Various Artists
Rhino
Mod Mania 2010
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 3:09
Soul Hits [Crimson] 2010
Various Artists
Crimson / Crimson Productions
Six Classic Albums 2011 Imc Music Ltd. 4:19
101 Soul Anthems 2011
Various Artists
EMI / EMI Music Distribution / Source Interlink / Virgin 6:26
No Image 2011 Not Now Music
Greatest Ever! Fifties Jukebox: The Definitive Collection 2011
Various Artists
Greatest Ever / Union Square Music 5:07
Hit the Road Jack and Other Classic Hits [Concord] 2011 Concord 4:07
Greatest Hits & More 2011 Cleopatra / Stardust Records 3:09
Billy Connolly's Route 66: Music from and Inspired by the ITV Series 2011
Various Artists
UMTV 3:09
Lemon Popsicles and Strawberry Milkshakes [10 Disc Box Set] 2011
Various Artists
Go Entertainment 5:06
The Roots of Mod 2011
Various Artists
Chrome Dreams 5:06
Retrospect 2012 Broken Audio 2:04
I Got a Woman [Sound and Vision] 2012 Sound and Vision 6:21
Mad Daddy's Maddest Spins - Rotatin', Motivatin' and Stimulatin' Rockin' and Reelin' and Hangin' from the Ceiling: Vintage Late '50s Rock and Swing 2012
Various Artists
Cleopatra / Righteous 5:05
Ray Charles: Live in Concert [APO] 2012 Analog Productions Originals 4:40
Soul: The Collection 2012
Various Artists
Rhino
No Image 2012 AP Music
Saturday Night Party: '50s Party, Vol. 1 2012
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing 5:07
Jazz Originals, Vol. 1 2013
Various Artists
Play 24-7 6:26
Salut Les Copains 1959-1968: Best of 2013
Various Artists
UMSM / Universal Music 6:25
No Image 2013 Blue Playa Records 5:10
Anthology [AAO Music] 2013 AAO Music / United Audio 6:12
The Greatest Ever Rock 'N' Roll 2014
Various Artists
Bellevue / Wienerworld 5:08
King of Cool: The Genius of Ray Charles 2014 Atlantic / Rhino 4:22
Ray Charles Juke Box Hits 2014 AAO Music
Duane Allman's Jukebox 2014
Various Artists
Chrome Dreams 3:11
No Image
Various Artists
Wagram
101 Hits from the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame
Various Artists
DLG Digital 3:10
300 Hits: Rock 'n' Roll
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing / Wienerworld 5:06
300 Hits: Saturday Night Party
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing / Wienerworld 5:07
50 Shades of Music For Her
Various Artists
Golden Stars / Goldies 6:27
Beatles Beginnings, Vol. 3: Silver Beatles
Various Artists
Acrobat / Rhythm & Blues
Beatles Beginnings, Vol. 8: The Quarrymen Repertoire
Various Artists
Rhythm & Blues 6:28
Bye Bye Love
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing 5:06
No Image
Various Artists
K-Tel 6:26
Dreamboats & Petticoats, Vol. 7: Walking Back to Happiness
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 6:27
Dynamic Blues: Ray Charles: 50 Essential Tracks DLG Digital 3:10
Early R & B Classics, Vol. 1
Various Artists
Cherished Records 5:09
Golden International Evergreens
Various Artists
Documents
No Image 10TEN MEDIA 4:03
No Image X5 Music Group 6:07
Lemon Popsicles and Strawberry Milkshakes, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Go Entertain
Live At Montreux 1997 Eagle Vision
Live in France 1961 Eagle Rock
Original Hits From the 50's
Various Artists
10Ten Media 6:25
Racey Rhythms
Various Artists
Cherished Records 3:10
No Image BD Jazz 4:02
No Image
Various Artists
Phantom Import Distribution
Smash Soul & R&B Hits, Vol. 1
Various Artists
Excalibur 5:05
Sweet Soul Music [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino 6:29
Sweethearts & Stolen Kisses: Love Me Tender
Various Artists
Music Digital 3:10
The Fifties Album
Various Artists
Warner Music
The Greatest Ever... Party Album
Various Artists
Bellevue / Wienerworld 5:08
No Image Phantom
What Made Mods
Various Artists
Music Digital 5:06
blue highlight denotes editor's pick