Monday, December 17, 2012

8th Grade Playlist: 8 - Hit The Road Jack by Ray Charles

There are a lot of songs that reflect on break-ups and tell the stories of relationships that ended. However there aren’t a lot of songs that put you right in the middle of a break-up while it’s happening.  That doesn’t really seem like a fun place to be, but Ray Charles manages to make it entertaining.



“Hit The Road Jack” by Ray Charles is one of the most popular songs in the history of pop music. It was written by Percy Mayfield and released in 1961. This song is a conversation between a fed-up woman and a man she is trying to make leave. He tries to convince her to let him stay, but she stand her ground and demands that he “hits the road.”

This is a short song with only two alternating sections. The opening “Hit the road jack,” section sung by the Raylettes (Ray Charles’ female back-up singers) with interjections by Ray.

During Ray’s first response he lashes out, telling the woman she’s mean. But then he pulls back and states that if she says he has to go, then he’ll leave. It’s almost like he’s trying to play a sympathy card to change his mind. But then she snaps right back singing “that’s right.”

During the second verse Ray takes on a different strategy. He tries to convince her that he’ll get his act together. Then we hear one of the most powerful phrases in pop music, “don’t care!” These two words aren’t sung as much as they are growled. It’s full of attitude, strength and one of the greatest “oh, snap,” moments in the history of popular music.

The relationship dynamics portrayed in this song are fascinating. This was released in the early 1960s. The power in relationships was more often in the hands of men both legally and socially. So here’s a song about a girl dumping a guy.  The guy is unable to convince her to let him stay and she proceeds to kick him out. Her reasoning is sound, he has no money and he’s no good.

Ray puts himself out there as the guy who gets dumped. This is the opposite of a rap star bragging about how much money he has or how many “ho’s in different area codes,” he “possesses.” It’s this willingness to be the man who gets dumped, the butt of the joke and that makes this song so much fun.

“Hit The Road Jack” is empowering to women and it’s a good lesson to men to remember get their act together before a girl gets fed up because there’s a good chance that if you don’t, you may be hitting the road. 

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