Registration with


lost password recovery

recover my password

sign in

sign in

Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact

Sign up for our newsletter

Get the Newsletter

What'd I Say by Ray Charles

Album: What'd I SayReleased: 1959Charted:
  • Charles said he got the idea for this from "The sweet sounds of love."
  • The call and response style was inspired by church music Charles grew up with. When the preacher said something, the congregation shouted it back.
  • Charles improvised this onstage at a club in Brownsville, Pennsylvania in December 1958 after he played every song he knew and still had 12 minutes to fill. He simply asked his band to follow his lead... which they did. He told his backing singers (The Raeletts) to simply repeat whatever he said. The singer remembered: "I had sung everything I could think of. So I said to the guys, 'Look, I'm going to start this thing off, I don't know where I'm going, so y'all just follow me.' And I said to the girls, 'Whatever I say, just repeat after me.'"

    The story goes that at the end, the club-goers gathered at Charles' feet, begging for the tune's title so they could buy the record. Predictably, the song was recorded with all due haste.
  • Although he first made his mark with "I Got a Woman," this established Charles as a front line star. Its success at the end of his contract with Atlantic Records enabled him to sign a lucrative one with ABC-Paramount. The hits came quickly and furiously soon afterwards. (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL, for above 2)
  • Along with "Be-Bop-a-Lula" by Gene Vincent, this is mentioned in the first line of the Dire Straits song, "Walk Of Life." The line is: "Here comes Johnny singing oldies goldies, Be-Bop-a-Lula baby What'd I Say."
  • When Charles recorded this, it was a very long song until engineer Tom Dowd edited it down to 6 1/2 minutes. Dowd eventually became a very well-respected producer, working with The Allman Brothers, Derek and the Dominos, Aretha Franklin and many others.
  • In 1975, John Belushi did a skit on Saturday Night Live where he plays Beethoven at a piano, but ends up rocking out to this. He was a big fan of Soul music, and performed as The Blues Brothers with with fellow cast member Dan Aykroyd.
or Register to post comments

Comments: 14

Ray's original version peaked at No. 6; and three other artists all reached the Top 30 with it. Jerry Lee Lewis peaked at No. 30 in 1961, Bobby Darin reached No. 24 in 1962, and Elvis topped out at No. 21 in 1964!!!Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
The beatles would play this song over and over for about 10 minutes duration in Hamburg the locals loved it..Leftykc - Gladstone, Mo
Saw Ray Charles with Raylettes in concert in Greenville, SC in early '60s. Best concert I ever witnessed.Richard - Charleston, Sc
Possibly the greatest example of what a 100 series wurlitzer electric piano sounds like.Kent - Lodi, Ca
This is the most intense song I have ever heard/played. I heard this song once and I told myself "I'm gonna learn how to play this." Well, the rythem is so sweet it took me about a month and a half to (kind of!) master it. What a GREAT song.Jimmy - Birmingham, Mi
This is the song that spawned a million others, including Watch Your Step by Bobby Parker, I Feel Fine by The Beatles and One Way Out by the Allman Brothers.Axe - Singleton, Australia
If you listen this song next to cemetery i am sure they all open their eyes and start to dance. You are great rest in peace Ray

Cem from Istanbul
Cem - Istanbul, Turkey
Sung by Chris Farley with his dad, Brian Dennehy in he movie Tommy Boy, with Farley doing cartwheels during their renditionJustin - Chicago, Il
This is #10 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.Ross - Independence, Mo
god.....? Greek or Roman???Pete - Nowra, Australia
To listen to the open of this song is a truly sublime experience. If this song was truly improvised on the fly, then Charles' talent was the equal of Mozart's.Tom - Bowie, Md
If you haven't seen it yet, do go and see the biopic 'Ray': Jamie Foxx's performance as the great man is astounding!Roy - London, England
The Blues Brothers were first seen on SNL, as a sketch actually, but Belushi and Aykroyd were serious about the blues. After several appearances as Jake and Elwood, on the show and elsewhere, they made the eponymous film. They left SNL to pursue bigger things.Shell - Riverdale, Ga
perhaps the greatest soul song ever, ray charles is a godC.j. - Tunkhannock, Pa