February 28, 1977

Feb28On this day in 1977,  an audience member attacked Ray Charles onstage.

For years, the rumour circulating was that the man had tried to strangle Charles with a rope.

The attack occurred during a benefit concert at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where Aretha Franklin, Ben Vereen and Jackie Onassis were among the 3,000 people in attendance.

As Ray Charles was singing ‘I Can See Clearly’, a young black man jumped onto the stage and tackled the blind singer. After a brief struggle, Charles’ manager Warren Stevens rushed the stage and pried the man off of Charles.

Charles was whisked off the stage but returned a few moments later to continue his performance.

While researching this event, I came across Gael MacGregor, who was a back-up singer for Charles that evening. She straightened the story out with this statement:

“I was one of the back-up singers at this show and the man didn’t try to strangle Mr. Charles. All of us who were backstage at the time heard the man exclaiming “Ray Charles is going to see tonight!” (or something to that effect, with other exclamations about the Lord coming, etc.)

When he got on stage, he had grabbed Mr. Charles in a bear hug, and it was quite unnerving, to say the least, since at first no one could understand what the man was saying and if he intended to harm Mr. Charles. If I recall correctly, Rosie Greer assisted in removing the man from the stage and into a room where security and police detained the fellow. And yes, the show went on.”

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