In response to the border crisis and in time for the Fourth of July, Austin, Texas Americana group The Band of Heathens has released a reimagining of Ray Charles’ “America the Beautiful” from his 1972 record, A Message From the People.
A Message From the People was a carefully curated album that Charles used to send a message about the state of the country and the turmoil amongst Americans at the time while striving for unification. Now, The Band of Heathens are working to record their own version of each track for a project called A Message From the People Revisited, using Charles’ powerful words in a contemporary setting. They will donate the proceeds from the recordings to social justice nonprofits. “Ray saved for us his most powerful message and the perfect coda; the definitive version of ‘America The Beautiful’ is absolutely glorious,” the band said. “It is quite simply the apotheosis of soul.”
Charles’ and The Band of Heathens’ version of the classic patriotic song is rearranged from the 1911 version of the poem “America the Beautiful” originally written by Katharine Lee Bates. When Charles recorded the song, Quincy Jones produced the track, and according to a statement, he also approves of the cover by The Band of Heathens. “It’s a great interpretation, and I admire their spirit to give it to charity,” Jones said.
The Band of Heathens are heading off on tour next week with their first stop in Segovia, Spain playing at a country music festival called Huercasa Fest. They’ll venture through several other festivals overseas in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands before returning to the United States at the end of the month. They’ll tour through the end of September with a smattering of dates planned throughout the year.