I've Got A Woman
Ray Charles

Written by Ray Charles & Renald Richard

Ray Charles - vocal, piano
Joe Bridgewater - trumpet
Clanky Whitley - trumpet
Donald Wilkerson - tenor saxophone
David Fathead Newman - baritone saxophone
Wesley Jackson - guitar
Jimmy Bell - bass
Glenn Brooks - drums

Arranged by Ray Charles
Produced by Ahmet Ertegun & Jerry Wexler

Recorded at Radio Station WGST, Georgia Tech., Atlanta on November, 18, 1954.
Atlantic Records single #1050

Chart Action: Billboard R&B #1, remained on charts for 20 weeks in January and February, 1955. Black Jukebox charts, #1; Airplay, #4; Sales, #2. This was Ray Charles' first song to hit the Rhythm and Blues charts. It would be three years until he first hit the pop charts with "Swanee River Rock" (R&B #14, Pop #34).

Cultural Issues

When this recording was released to the African-American audience in 1954, the cultural backlash was strong enough that it warrants investigation. To contemporary ears it sounds like top-shelf Rhythm and Blues: gritty, soulful, with a solid horn arrangement and saxophone solo. For a strong contingent of the Black music listening public of 1954, the most prominent - and offensive - sound of the record was that of gospel music in a secular setting. For the sacred music listeners - a vocal majority - to use the impassioned fervor and emotional intensity of the church to describe an overtly sexual act was a taboo of the highest order.

Ray Charles grew up immersed in the Black church, becoming fluent in the techniques of gospel arrangement; absorbing its vocal delivery and call-and-response approaches; and observing and conversing in the form's concern for expressive individuality.

He began recording highly popular "bar blues" (laid back in attitude, cool in sound) recordings in the early 1950's using the style of his peers Charles Brown and Floyd Dixon: "Confession Blues" (1949, R&B #2), "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand" (1951, R&B #5), and "Kiss-a Me Baby" (1952, R&B #8) are exemplary. While these were excellent performances, they were just a dash too derivative of the older cool blues style; but then again, he was just coming into his own as a musician (born 1930, he was entering his twenties).

Growing up so close in culture and attitude to the Black church, it was only natural that he would begin to immerse his music in gospel flavor. "I've Got A Woman" marks the first record where the sound of gospel -- the call-and-response interaction; the heated exuberance of delivery; the warm, deeply pronounced drum sound; the buoyant piano -- just oozes out of the vinyl. Instead of using a gospel-vocal ensemble, Charles created a horn arrangement that tightly wraps around his vocal, answering its calls. It is important to note the tenor saxophone solo by David Wilkerson departs from the archetypal rhythm & blues saxophone sound - "the Honk" as in Cozy Cole's "Topsy" (1958, R&B #1); Bill Doggett - "Honky Tonk" (1956, R&B #1); and Red Prysock - "Hand Clappin'" (1955) - instead Wilkerson's sound is refined, buoyant, and airy, pointing to the band's parallel interest in jazz.

Despite the public scandal that the record elicited, which included boycotting of radio stations playing the song, it demonstrates how radical music can (and most often does) penetrate the active listener culture of Black America. Not only was the song a hit (#1), but it inspired a continuity of gospel-based R&B performances, including but certainly not limited to, hit-covers (Carl Perkins for Columbia, Conway Twitty in 1962 for MGM, and Ricky Nelson in 1963 for Decca).

"I've Got A Woman" corresponds with a thread of Rhythm and Blues lyrics presenting a "religious" conception of love. The interdependent relationship described by these songs - which included Jerry Butler's "For Your Precious Love" (1959) and The Platters' "My Prayer" (1956) - contrasted with the sexual realism of modern blues and the endearing naïveté of the era's teen pop songs. Ray Charles portrayed a companion, not merely a lover, with dependability, resourcefulness, one worthy of a lifetime's attention.

Though one cringes upon hearing that old eye-roller "a woman's place is in her home," notice the replacement of the word 'the' with 'her': the lyric is intended to be a celebration of domesticity rather than a confinement to it.

Through Ray Charles' music, the next few years would see the mass acceptance of gospel style in the secular sphere with his hits "Hallelujah, I Love Her So" (1956, R&B #5), and the erotic, "What'd I Say" (1959, R&B #1). Roy Hamilton, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Sam and Dave, among many others, have traced their musical development to hearing Ray Charles, and especially his marvelous "I've Got A Woman".


Well, I got a woman, way over town
She's good to me, oh yeah
Said I got a woman, way over town
Good to me, oh yeah
She gives me money when I'm in need
Yeah, she's a kind of friend indeed
I got a woman, way over town
That's good to me, oh yeah

She saves her lovin', early in the mornin'
Just for me, oh yeah
She saves her lovin', early in the mornin'
Just for me, oh yeah
She saves her lovin', just for me
Always love me, so tenderly
I got a woman, way over town
That's good to me, oh yeah

(tenor sax solo: Wilkerson)

She's there to love me
Both day and night
Never grumbles or fusses
Always treats me right
Never runnin' in the streets
And leavin' me alone
She knows a woman's place
Is right there, now, in her home

I got a woman, way over town
She's good to me, oh yeah
Said I got a woman, way over town
She's good to me, oh yeah
Well, she's my baby, don't you understand
Yeah, I'm her lovin' man, now
I got a woman, way over town
She's good to me, oh yeah
Well, don't you know she's all right
Well, don't you know she's all right
She's all right, she's all right
(fade out)

Miller, James. Flowers In The Dustbin. New York: Fireside, 1999.
Ward, Brian. Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness, and Race Relations. Berkeley: U. Cal Press, 1998.
Whitburn, Joel. Billboard Top R&B Singles 1942-1999. Record Research, 2000.

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