YOU DON’T KNOW ME by Ray Charles Robinson Jr.


Reflections of My Father, Ray Charles
Email this review


Unremarkable memoir of the son of music legend Ray Charles.

Robinson recalls his upbringing and relationship with Charles based on his childhood memories, which are incomplete at best, and his own life story is simply not as compelling as his father’s. The most engaging sections of the book concern Robinson’s youth. In plain prose, he re-creates a sense of his father’s rapid upward trajectory in the 1950s after a life of struggle, and his surreal existence as the inquisitive child of a brilliant black celebrity in a segregated America. As a child, his father was present in his life as a benevolent, fascinating, yet distant figure. Robinson is frank about the darker undercurrents in his father’s meticulously arranged existence as family man and famous bandleader. He became aware of his heroin addiction before it culminated in the musician’s 1965 arrest, as well as his penchant for extramarital affairs. “My father's appetite for women was insatiable,” he writes. When the author was 18, in 1973, his mother finally initiated divorce proceedings, which shocked and embittered Charles, who “had convinced himself that the other women shouldn't matter to her as long as she was his wife and he took care of her.” Throughout, Robinson’s writing is workmanlike and bland, and the narrative becomes tedious as the adult author repeatedly sobers up and relapses into drug use. Even producing the lauded film Ray triggered this cycle—“the film would force me to revisit all the trauma, fear, and anxiety of my childhood.” With regard to his father’s death in 2004, Robinson flagellates himself for not spending more time with him in his last days, and accuses Charles’ handlers of quickly shutting out family members as the music world honored an icon.

For die-hard Ray Charles fans only.

Pub Date: June 8th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-307-46293-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harmony
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2010