Oscar Buzz Lifts Ray Charles Titles

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Oscar Buzz Lifts Ray Charles Titles

By Lucine Kasbarian

Publisher's Weekly

November 15, 2004


The strongly positive reception for Jamie Foxx's portrayal of 12-time Grammy winner Ray Charles in the biopic Ray, along with platinum sales of Charles's final album, Genius Loves Company (Concord Records, Aug.), have significantly extended the sales window for related books leading up to the Academy Awards on February 27.

The book with the strongest publicity hook is the official pictorial moviebook from Newmarket, Ray: A Tribute to the Movie, the Music and the Man (Nov.). The $30 illustrated hardcover embellishes the screenplay with film stills and story boards, period memorabilia and tributes by the director, Taylor Hackford, and cast to Charles, who gave his blessing to the film before his death on June 10. Hackford is adding a promotional kick with a series of radio interviews about the film and book. Major jazz, talk, and top-40 radio stations will give away copies.

So far, the film has grossed more than $40 million, following a first weekend gross of $20.1 million after the October 29 premiere.

In September, Da Capo rushed out a revised edition of the $16.95 trade paperback Brother Ray: Ray Charles' Own Story, the candid and folksy autobiography penned in 1992 by Charles with David Ritz, with a new afterword by Ritz that ran as a tribute in Rolling Stone. Ritz also joined in the late August TV satellite tour for the CD Genius Loves Company, helping to pave the way for more recent mentions of the book in stories by the AP, New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

Sales and marketing v-p Kevin Hanover noted that the Charles biopic has spurred consumer demand that's strong enough to send the book back to press three times. On November 1, Routledge released an updated edition of Ray Charles: Man and Music (originally published by Riverhead in 1999), which includes new material on the last days of Charles's life along with commentary from the singer's band mates, friends and collaborators on his final album. Routledge sales v-p Dennis Weiss reported a rise in orders, particularly from chain booksellers, due in part to film buzz and coverage of the book and author in U.S. News & World Report.

The PG-13 rating for the movie has publisher Lee & Low repromoting its children's book, Ray Charles, with text by Sharon Bell Mathis, and illustrations by George Ford, which was first published in 1973 and has been reissued with a new foreword and afterward by the author. Available in hardcover and paperback, the book was the 1974 Coretta Scott King Award winner, and the publisher is offering a downloadable teachers' guide to Ray Charles on its Web site (www.leeandlow.com/teachers/guide26.html).