I'm one of those people who never could really grasp the appeal of The
Dick Cavett Show and its host of the same name. In seeing Cavett on various
television shows through the years, including one in the late '80s, I find him
as someone who on the surface is fairly bland and boring. And my generation has
currently put Ryan Seacrest on shows covering two different television channels
(even if one of them is E!).
Nevertheless, Cavett's interviewing skills seemed to hold their own with
most other interviewers of the era, and in a testament to those behind the
curtain, the Cavett show helped bring in a lot of musicians into its fold, from
Janis Joplin to George Harrison. The ABC show ran for 5 years, with each 90
minute episode ranging from interesting to somewhat morose, depending on whether
or not Cavett's interviewing and charisma decided to show up. As part of a
recurring series, Shout! Factory has been releasing various Cavett compilation
videos over the last several months. This one includes a three-episode
collection with Cavett and Ray Charles, who seemed to share a relationship
larger than the usual host-guest dynamic. The episodes break down as
• June 26, 1972
Cavett comes out on stage, and
instead of the usual mundane comedy routine, decides to "electrify"
the audience by showing them the wonders of a then-new technology to television,
the slow motion effect. After six sense-testing minutes of this, he finally gets
to business, and Charles is introduced. He performs a solid version of
"America the Beautiful," but the overall sound quality really does
take away from enjoying it. Afterwards, Charles and Cavett sit down for some
time, and the two really hit it off. The charming, "aw, shucks"
self-deprecating nature of Charles really does come through, and Cavett is quite
the fan, apparently. One of his first questions is about Charles' blindness and
his daily activities, so you've got to admire that kind of honesty in this day
and age. Charles returns to the piano for the instrumental "Blues for Big
Scotia" and Cavett joins him for an impromptu duet of "Am I Blue"
which is admittedly a little painful. Before leaving, Cavett invites Charles
back for another time, which Charles takes him up on. The subsequent other
guests in this show are The Odd Couple's Tony Randall and anthropologist
• January 26, 1973
Charles is the sole guest on this
show, and he provides more details into his life that are simply surprising to
the amateur fan. Who would have known that Ray knew how to fly, or was a chess
player? Charles talks with some candor about his parents and his musical
influences, and it's a really interesting look at the musical legend. In terms
of the songs he plays, he kicks things off with "I Feel So Bad,"
followed by an amazing version of "Georgia on My Mind" that must be
heard to be appreciated. During an interview break, Charles mentions his dislike
for playing on television, because of the lack of providing a proper sound for
musical acts (a-friggin' men) before going back to the piano for a different,
but uniquely Ray Charles version of "Eleanor Rigby." After playing
"I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing,"
there's a version of "Shake" that's OK (I prefer the Otis Redding
version myself), followed by a version of "America the Beautiful" that
was better than the first. And Cavett and Charles reunite again for "Am I
Blue" for some reason, perhaps to torture, but forgivable considering how
much quality music was here.
• July 9, 1973
Charles' last appearance on the show
is started, oddly enough, with a fire engine siren during Cavett's monologue
(not the first time you can hear a fire truck during this set). Cavett's first
interview is with then-New York City Mayor John Lindsey where they discuss, both
seriously and in jest, the Nixon White House (this was shortly after the release
of Nixon's infamous "Enemies List"). Charles performs "I Feel So
Bad" and "Born To Lose" and the two slowly draw out some suspense
before performing "Am I Blue" yet again. Charles resumes a previous
discussion on the lack of sound quality on television programming, followed by a
discussion with Dr. Samuel Rosen, who was responsible for a medical procedure
that involved hearing restoration. The segment was a little cryptic for whatever
reason. Charles asks some questions about hearing loss because unknown to many,
Charles felt that he was losing his hearing, which was moderately
By and large, the video quality improves with the times (the first episode
looked dreadful), and the audio was OK, and the only extra of note (aside from
Cavett's episode introductions) is an extended interview with the host himself.
Cavett spends about 10 minutes with thoughts, recollections and general memories
of Charles. He doesn't really add too much of note to this package. Quite
frankly the eight page booklet that came with the set is better than Cavett's
recollections, which says something. Overall, for fans of Charles this is more
than entertaining and well worth your time, but wait for this to appear in the
cutout bin before you add it to your library.