What'd I Say

1959 single by Ray Charles / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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"What'd I Say" (or "What I Say") is an American rhythm and blues song by Ray Charles, released in 1959. As a single divided into two parts, it was one of the first soul songs. The composition was improvised one evening late in 1958 when Charles, his orchestra, and backup singers had played their entire set list at a show and still had time left; the response from many audiences was so enthusiastic that Charles announced to his producer that he was going to record it.

Quick facts: "What'd I Say", Single by Ray Charles, from t...
"What'd I Say"
Head and shoulders shot of Ray Charles next to a microphone, his sunglasses reflecting his hands on piano keys and the shadow of the microphone cast on his face
Single by Ray Charles
from the album What'd I Say
B-side"What'd I Say, Pt. 2"
ReleasedJune 1959
RecordedFebruary 18, 1959
Length5:10 (Album)
3:05 (Part 1)
1:59 (Part 2)
Songwriter(s)Ray Charles
Producer(s)Jerry Wexler
Ray Charles singles chronology
"Night Time Is the Right Time"
"What'd I Say"
"I'm Moving On"

After his run of R&B hits, this song finally broke Charles into mainstream pop music and itself sparked a new subgenre of R&B titled soul, finally putting together all the elements that Charles had been creating since he recorded "I Got a Woman" in 1954. The gospel and rhumba influences combined with the sexual innuendo in the song made it not only widely popular but very controversial to both white and black audiences. It earned Ray Charles his first gold record and has been one of the most influential songs in R&B and rock and roll history. For the rest of his career, Charles closed every concert with the song. It was added to the National Recording Registry in 2002 and appeared in the 2003 and 2021 versions of Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list: at number 10 in 2003 and at number 80 in 2021.