Niagara Gazette — Music and the music industry, as I knew it fifty years ago was extremely racially segregated. Some people did all they could to keep it that way, but the human spirit would have nothing of it. Eventually good music leaked across the artificial barriers and just about everybody learned to enjoy just about all of it.
But, like millions of others, I was completely surprised when I learned that some of the M.G.s were white, so seemed all together fitting that, since that blacks and whites could play music together and be accepted and highly appreciated, they could also attend the University of Mississippi together too.
A federal court had, in September of 1962 ordered the University of Mississippi to accept twenty-eight year old African American Air Force veteran, James Meredith against the wishes the staunch segregationist Governor Ross Barnett who had pledged that he would never allow the school to be integrated.
But, after several days of televised violence and rioting by whites, Meredith, accompanied by federal officials, was finally enrolled on October 1, 1962, and graduated without incident the following August.
The Four Seasons and Ray Charles each enjoyed dual hit songs in 1962, and I remember them all, especially “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry”. It would have been next to impossible to have lived through that year and not heard those songs; they were that popular, but so was Ray Charles.
His music was crossing over; there was no way to contain it. In his own musical way, Ray Charles was tearing down walls, and everyone on both sides, seemed eager to get across.
His “You Are My Sunshine” brought more than simple joy to the world, it brought hope which was desperately needed when on October 22, 1962 President Kennedy’s announcement on national television that the Soviet Union had been placing nuclear missiles in Cuba and that he had ordered a naval blockade of the island, putting all United States strategic forces on high alert.