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Maceo Parker Revisits 'Roots & Grooves'


Saxophonist and vocalist Maceo Parker was only 22 years old when soul legend James Brown asked him to join his band. Parker played on some of Brown's most-notable recordings before embarking on a successful solo career in the 1970s. As VOA's Doug Levine reports, Parker revisits his musical roots with a tribute to another R&B icon, Ray Charles.

Long before his whirlwind tenure with "The Godfather of Soul" James Brown, Maceo Parker spent hours listening to Ray Charles' records. Parker explains how Ray's music changed his life.

"I had a concept that if Ray Charles recorded it I had to get it," he said. "I didn't care what it was - every, every, everything. And, from just listening to him all the time and being into him [a fan], and going to his concerts, I just really got into his style."

Parker shared his passion with his brother Melvin, a drummer who also worked with James Brown. He says their mutual appreciation for Ray Charles led to them becoming avid fans of all types of music.

"That was our thing. We tried to hear everything - every, every, everything," Parker said. "So that's what we did. We set out to try to get as much of a [record] collection as we possibly could."

Maceo Parker's new double-CD Roots And Grooves, featuring the WDR Big Band, was recorded live during a 2007 European tour. One disc honors Ray Charles, while the other features Parker's signature soul and funk tunes.

Parker says that after more than four decades of performing for audiences the world over, nothing compares to playing live.

"That's the beauty of performing and music," he said. "It's always touching somebody. That's what you always want to do. You always want to give somebody a smile, you know, to make them feel better than they felt."

Parker will crisscross the U.S. on his current tour, before leaving for concerts in Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.