Everything Is Beautiful by Ray Stevens (1970, Barnaby)

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Whenever I hear this song, I have this fuzzy memory of singing it during a Church service with the pastor, a tall Paul Williams lookalike leading the way. They were Lutherans and it was the 70s, so why not invite some ‘rock’ into tho worship. Then again I’m wondering if I’m making it up. Maybe I did sing this in Sunday school. Or maybe I just think I did, because this song just lends itself to that vibe. Then again maybe it was sang through the decade by the idealists, who remembered that time when the song represented hope and a simple message of togetherness, knocking those cynical Canadians, The Guess Who out of the top sport with their caustic American Woman.

To me, it’s more of a testament to the people who bought into this song and the singer who released. For, the earnest Everything Is Beautiful was recorded by novelty singer, Ray Stevens. If you want me to put this in context on how this strange this is, imagine ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic singing Wind Beneath My Wings, from the movie, Beaches [that song really did need an accordion solo]. You wouldn’t get 15 seconds into it before you laughed it off. And it’s not as if Ray made a permanent change in type of tunes he started performing. He wrote and sang The Streak, just 4 years later and boogity-boogity’d his way to #1 again.

Now Ray is not a great singer, but a good one and he puts his all into Everything Is Beautiful. But how did the public take the guy, who recorded Gitarzan just the year before, seriously and not absolutely vomit and throw tomatoes when the record starts off with a children’s chorus of Jesus Loves the Little Children? Are you kidding me? Bravo folks. I don’t know how you kept a straight face. Ray even won a Grammy for Best Pop song, Male. I’m not dissing Ray, but in a year that saw great popular songs from Mark Lindsey (Arizona) and Edwin Starr (War) even Tom Jones (Without Love(There Is Nothing)), let alone John Lennon’s Instant Karma, how does Ray even stand a chance? Was Bobby Sherman too radical? Just more proof that the Grammys are a joke.

Although I will say for Ray, getting in some lyrics about loving the long hairs and people of color was a bold move, even in 1970. So the fact that this was universally accepted was a coup for him. I just wonder if the joke was on us. Not that last part, but the whole Hippie, everything’s great, love each other sentiment. I wonder if Ray thought to himself, I’m going to write the best novelty song of all by playing it so serious, no one knows I’m kidding. Kind of like a gospel Andy Kaufman, if you will. I’ll think about that the next time I hear this song get to its 3rd key change and Ray vamps on beau-ti-fu-ooo-ulll and wonder if he was snickering inside.

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3 Comments

  1. Why not give music consumers some credit for accepting both the comical and serious sides of Ray Stevens? Why should an unfair perception of Ray as “only a novelty singer” dictate what kinds of songs he should sing?

    People have a wide range of emotions. Declaring that a singer who releases “Gitarzan” one year and “The Streak” another year therefore shouldn’t be taken seriously with anything they release shows me you assume that artists or music listeners are one dimensional and can only accept or tolerate specific sounds, styles, and vocalizations without the least bit of deviation from a formula.

    Also, in my opinion, it’s unfair to use Weird Al as a comparison. Weird Al’s deliberately been a parodist/comedy singer. Ray, on the other hand, has always recorded a variety of music styles (pop, gospel, country, and comedy) and if people were to take the time to examine Ray’s career they’d find that the comical recordings make up less than a half of his body of work. In between those comical songs that you cited such as “Gitarzan” and “The Streak” he was releasing love songs and pop ballads like “Party People”, “Mr. Businessman”, “Isn’t It Lonely Together”, “Have a Little Talk With Myself”, the great “Everything Is Beautiful”, “America, Communicate With Me”, “Sunset Strip”, a return to novelty with “Bridget the Midget the Queen of the Blues”, a switch to gospel with “Turn Your Radio On”, “All My Trials”, and “A Mama and a Papa”, and then an early experiment with country flavored recordings highlighted by his “Nashville” single in late ’73. His Grammy winning version of “Misty” came along in 1975. He wasn’t even marketed as a country music artist until the late ’70s…he’d been recording pop music since 1957. So, yes, while it may in fact seem strange to those who only know of Ray Stevens as a comical singer to at some point hear his serious side, he gets a lot of credit from me for being musically diverse.

    Reply
  2. Lily

     /  June 27, 2013

    Too true. I don’t care much for comedy records, but I love his version of ‘Misty’.

    Reply
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