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Ray Charles and Johnny Cash ‘Undiscovered’ Duet Surfaces

Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Almost thirty years ago, two of music’s biggest icons — Ray Charles and Johnny Cash — got together in a Nashville studio and recorded a duet. The song, originally intended for a CBS Records album in 1981, was ultimately dropped from the project, remaining virtually hidden from the public since that time. But now, Concord Records is ready to unearth the tune, along with several other previously-unheard tracks on a Ray Charles album, ‘Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters.’

The song, ‘Why Me,’ was penned by Kris Kristofferson (who had a pop and country hit with it in 1973) and produced by recent inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Billy Sherrill. The ten-track CD also includes ‘A Little Bitty Tear,’ written by Hank Cochran, whose legendary songwriting career includes cuts by George Jones, Pasty Cline, Elvis Presley and Ella Fitzgerald.

Recording songs penned by country writers was a common occurrence for Ray Charles. His long list of cuts by Nashville hitmakers includes ‘Don’t Let Her Know’ by Buck Owens, ‘Busted’ by Harlan Howard and ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ by Hank Williams. Ray also collaborated with Nashville artists including Hank Williams, Jr. (‘Two Old Cats Like Us’), B.J. Thomas (‘Rock and Roll Shoes’) and Willie Nelson (‘Seven Spanish Angels’) for the 1984 album, ‘Friendship.’

‘Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters,’ due in stores on October 26, is Ray’s third posthumous release. Atlantic Records released a tribute album to the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer called ‘Genius & Friends,’ which was released shortly after Ray’s death in 2004 and included duets with artists Ray had chosen, including, among others, Alicia Keys, George Michael, John Legend and Gladys Knight. Concord Records also released ‘Ray Sings, Basie Swings,’ in 2006, featuring Ray performing live throughout his decades-long career, accompanied by new instrumentation from the Count Basie Orchestra.

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