James Ray (singer)

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For other people named James Ray, see James Ray (disambiguation).
James Ray
Birth name James Jay Raymond
Born 1941 (1941)
Washington, D.C., United States
Died 1964 (1965) (aged 23)
Washington, D.C., United States
Genres Rhythm and blues, Soul
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1950s - 1960s

James Ray (1941 – c. 1964), born James Jay Raymond, was an African-American R&B singer of the early 1960s best known for the hit single "If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody", which went to number 10 on Billboard's R&B chart and number 22 on the pop chart in 1962.[1] He also recorded the original version of "Got My Mind Set on You", later a number-1 hit for George Harrison.


Born in Washington D.C., Ray stood just 5' tall and first recorded as Little Jimmy Ray, releasing "Make Her Mine" on the Galliant label in 1959. It was unsuccessful and by 1961 he was destitute and living on a rooftop, though still performing in clubs. Songwriter Rudy Clark befriended him, and persuaded Gerry Granahan of Caprice Records to sign him.[2] Using the name James Ray, his first recording was of Clark's song, "If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody", arranged by Hutch Davie.[3] The record was a hit on both the pop and R&B charts. The single was issued in the UK in 1962 as well, and the song was performed by The Beatles before being discovered by Freddie and the Dreamers, who took it into the UK top 5 the year after.

In the United States, Ray's single was followed by an eponymous album that contained the follow-up single "Itty Bitty Pieces", which reached number 41 on the Billboard pop chart, as well as "Got My Mind Set on You", also written by Clark. An edited version was released later in the year as a single on the Dynamic Sound label.

Ray died from a drug overdose soon after his chart success, possibly as early as 1962,[4] though other sources suggest around 1963,[2] 1964[1] or later in the decade.[3]

Covers and tributes[edit]

The Beatles' George Harrison purchased a copy of Ray's album in 1963 when he went to the United States to visit his sister.[citation needed] Over two decades later he revived "Got My Mind Set On You" and took it to number 1 in early 1988.

John Lennon included "If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody" on his jukebox, the contents of which were issued as a double album in 2004 after the jukebox itself was purchased at an auction. A cover of the song by Maxine Brown was released in 1967.[5]


  1. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 365. 
  2. ^ a b Biography by Jason Ankeny at Allmusic.com
  3. ^ a b James Ray at Black Cat Rockabilly
  4. ^ Dead Rock Stars Club
  5. ^ Maxine Brown - Allmusic