Wednesday, January 12, 2011

THE NAZI KING

THE NAZI KING

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CLOSE: Report reveals relationship of Hitler and the Duchess of Windsor








In December 1940, as war raged in Europe and Britain battled Hitler in lonely isolation, ­American journalist Fulton Oursler received an unexpected summons to the Bahamas. He had been invited to conduct a rare interview with the islands’ governor, the former King Edward VIII, ­officially known since his abdication four years earlier as His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor.By Simon Edge








As an officer in the British Army as well as a dignitary of the British Empire and brother of King George VI, the Duke might have been expected to fly the flag for his embattled ­country. Instead he gave Oursler a eulogy to Hitler. The former British monarch told the journalist it would be tragic for the world if the Nazi ­dictator were overthrown. Hitler was not just the right and logical leader of the German people, the Duke insisted, he was also a great man
.
As Oursler tried to grasp the ­enormity of what he was hearing the Duke asked him: “Do you suppose that your President would consider intervening as a mediator when and if the proper time arrives?”
The American understood that he was being asked to carry a message to President Roosevelt, with whom he was on good terms, but he was not certain what it was. As he was leaving the Duke’s aide-de-camp spelt it out. He instructed Oursler: “Tell Mr ­Roosevelt that if he will make an offer of intervention for peace, that before anyone in England can oppose it, the Duke of Windsor will instantly issue a statement supporting it and that will start a revolution in England and force peace.”
Fortunately Roosevelt would have no truck with the Duke’s treacherous scheme. He had already placed Edward and his American-born wife, the former Wallis Simpson, under FBI surveillance when they paid a visit to Miami. Newly declassified FBI papers revealed in a documentary this week on Channel Five show the Americans’ scathing assessment of the royal figure who had once been the glam­orous darling of the British Empire.
“The British government were anxious to get rid of the Duke of Windsor, first and foremost because of his fondness for Nazi ideology,” the 227-page report concludes. “The Duchess’s political views are deemed so obnoxious to the British government that they refused to permit Edward to marry her and maintain the throne.”


A s far as the British public was concerned the former Edward VIII had renounced the throne in 1936 because he was in love with a twice-divorced woman and could not marry her while ­remaining king.
This had indeed presented a constitutional problem – a divorcee could not enter the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, let alone become Queen – but it is now generally accepted by ­historians that there were much larger issues at stake.
The British government was certainly right to consider the Duke a liability. Indeed so blatant was his behaviour in passing information to Britain’s enemy in time of war that the term “traitor” would not go amiss.
Initially the problem was his temperament. As the dashing young Prince of Wales he had toured the British Empire with immense success, bringing the kind of star quality to the monarchy matched only by Princess Diana half a century later.
Behind the scenes however he was a worry – delighting in affairs with married women and capable of remarkable callousness. One of his private secretaries Alan Lascelles confided to prime minister Stanley Baldwin that he sometimes thought it would be best for the country if Edward fell off his point-to-point horse and broke his neck. “God forgive me,” replied Baldwin, “so do I.”
By the mid-Thirties the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany presented a far greater challenge for those who worried about Edward’s suitability for the throne.
Thanks to his great-grandfather Prince Albert and his mother Queen Mary, not to mention his Hano­verian ancestor King George I, the Prince of Wales was as much ­German as he was English and so comfortable with the German ­language that he sometimes referred to it as his mother tongue.
S ince the First World War the monarchy had glossed over this aspect of its lineage. Edward’s father King George V had changed the family surname from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor and the family had been at pains to reinvent themselves as British to the core.
But Edward’s Germanophile instincts would not be suppressed. Now, with a belligerent new leader in Berlin threatening to rip up the Treaty of Versailles, those sympathies posed a serious problem – particularly when King George V died in January 1936. Edward inherited the throne as a hugely popular new king – and set about meddling in government policy. This was in defiance of all convention but that didn’t stop Edward. He took to calling the ­German ambassador directly – a clear breach of constitutional protocol and one with serious practical consequences.
When Hitler made it clear he meant to send his forces back into the demilitarised Rhineland the government expressed its opposition. Edward should have stepped back. Instead he threatened to abdicate if Hitler’s advance was stopped, compounding the harm by phoning the German ambassador to tell him he had done so.
“The reassurances from Edward that Britain wasn’t going to fight were crucial,” says Professor Jonathan Petropoulos, author of Royals And The Reich. “Hitler had an ace in the hole, as we would say in American poker, knowing what he did from Edward at the time.”
In that context the abdication at the end of 1936 came as a godsend to the government. But even off the throne the Duke of Windsor posed an ongoing problem.
The FBI files show that at a party in Vienna in June 1937 – the month he married Mrs Simpson – the loose-tongued Duke told an Italian ­diplomat that the Americans had cracked Italy’s intelligence codes.Four months later the Duke and Duchess paid a high-profile visit to Germany where the Nazi regime fawned on him. They met Hitler, who saw the value of ­cultivating an ally once so intimately involved with British affairs. Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels wrote of the Duke: “It’s a shame he is no longer king. With him we would have entered into an alliance.”
Even the declaration of war was not enough to make the Duke sever his Nazi connections. He was made a major-general and stationed in France but he continued to ­communicate with the enemy. In January 1940 the German minister in The Hague wrote that he had established a direct line of contact to the Duke.
This line of contact proved crucial to the tragic fate of France. From the Duke the Germans learned that their plans for the invasion of France had fallen into Allied hands. This intelligence allowed Hitler to change his plans and catch the Allies by surprise. France fell.
The FBI papers also reveal that the Duchess of Windsor was in ­regular contact with the Nazi foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, whom the Americans suspected of being her former lover. After the fall of Paris she and the Duke hopped from Biarritz to Madrid to Lisbon, shamelessly consorting with wealthy fascist sympathisers.
In Portugal Edward committed what may have been the worst act of his shabby career. In July 1940 the German ambassador in Lisbon passed a message to Berlin saying: “The Duke believes with certainty that continued heavy bombing would make England ready for peace.”
The former king was urging the bombardment of his own people.
P rime Minister Winston Churchill understood the danger he posed and was desperate to get him back to Britain, at one stage threatening him with court martial if he refused. In the end sending him to govern the Bahamas – a humiliating posting which both the Duke and Duchess detested – proved the most viable option.
But as Fulton Oursler was to discover the former king continued to plot from the governor’s mansion in Nassau, driven by a combination of his own Nazi sympathies and his belief that a strong Hitler could help him back to the British throne.
Shortly after he took up the post the Duke told one confidant: “After the war is over and Hitler has crushed the Americans we’ll take over. The British don’t want me as king but I’ll be back as their leader.”
Fortunately of course it never happened. The Americans came into the war on Britain’s side, Hitler was crushed and the Duke of Windsor lived out an obscure retirement in Paris, where he died in 1972.
His body was returned to Britain and the Nazi sympathiser who compromised Britain’s war effort at a time of national peril was accorded a full royal funeral.
The conclusion of historians of the period is that it all would have been so much worse without the abdication.
“Wallis Simpson saved the country,” says John Julius Norwich, whose parents Duff and Lady Diana Cooper were intimates of Edward in the Thirties.
“I think that Mrs Simpson saved not only the monarchy but also the country. She is actually my ­candidate for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.”
Britain’s Nazi King Revealed, Channel Five, Thursday, 8pm.
























































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FEMME FATALE

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RAY CHARLES: LOOKING BACK

As his 80th birthday approaches, a look at the life and legacy of the late Ray Charles.


"I just do what I do." That's what Ray Charles told Billboard in June 2002 when asked to assess his role in music history. Of course, Charles' self-effacing response belies a groundbreaking career and a legacy that endures today, as fans look toward celebrating what would have been the legendary artist's 80th birthday Sept. 23. Looking back at Charles' storied career, what comes to mind is the phrase "musical genius." In Charles' case, that's no hype.


Rare & Unseen Ray Charles Photos | Charles on the Charts

80th Birthday Year Events | Charles Charity


In 1954, the artist's melding of gospel and blues yielded the pioneering hit "I've Got a Woman"-and forged an indelible imprint on R&B, rock and pop. His earthy, soulful voice graced a steady stream of classics after "Woman," including "Drown in My Own Tears," "What'd I Say," "Hit the Road Jack," "Unchain My Heart," "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Georgia on My Mind."

Video below: Ray Charles performs "Hit The Road Jack" in São Paulo, Brazil on September 22, 1963.


Video below: Ray Charles performs "Then I'll Be Home" in Montreux, Switzerland on July 19, 1997.


Just as at home on the Hammond B-3 organ as he was on the piano, he also landed at the top of Billboard's R&B, pop, country and jazz charts-and even the dance chart, collaborating with childhood friend Quincy Jones and Chaka Khan on "I'll Be Good to You."

His final recording, 2004's "Genius Loves Company," made history when it won eight Grammy Awards, including album and record of the year for his pairing with Norah Jones on "Here We Go Again."

But what many may not know is that the inimitable Charles was also a genius when it came to the business side of music. In the early '60s he negotiated a rare feat after leaving Atlantic Records to sign with ABC-Paramount: ownership of his own master recordings. He also established his own labels. Tangerine (his favorite fruit) came first, which later evolved into CrossOver Records.

A songwriter who penned nearly 200 songs, Charles also operated his own publishing companies, Tangerine Music and Racer Music. For these entities, Charles and longtime manager Joe Adams designed and built the RPM International office and studios on Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles. The Ray Charles Memorial Library will open in the building this fall.

Charles also found time to manage the careers of other acts, including Billy Preston and '70s R&B group the Friends of Distinction. And way before it was de rigueur for artists to do, Charles set up what became a foundation to help needy children with hearing disabilities and later on support education.


He was an amazing human being," says Jones, 77, who became friends with Charles when both were scrappy teenagers in Seattle. "A true innovator who revolutionized music and the business of music," he adds. "Growing up, we only had the radio; no Michael Jackson, Diddy or Oprah. So it was hard to imagine today's entrepreneurial world. But that didn't stop us. We spent a lot of time talking and dreaming about things that brothers had never done before."

"He really was a genius," says singer Solomon Burke, a former Atlantic labelmate. "He did things the way he wanted."

Charles was born Ray Charles Robinson Sept. 23, 1930, in Albany, Ga. As many learned through actor Jamie Foxx's Academy Award-winning portrayal in the 2004 film "Ray," Charles became blind by age 7 and orphaned at 15 while growing up in northwest Florida.

In eight years at a state school for the blind, the young Charles learned how to read and write music. Leaving Florida in 1947, he headed for Seattle ("Choosing the farthest place he could find from Florida," Jones says), where he notched his first hit two years later as a member of the Maxin Trio, "Confession Blues."

Even then, Charles was an enterprising individual. "He had his own apartment, record player, two pairs of pimp shoes, and here I am still living at home," Jones recalls with a laugh. "His mother trained him not to be blind: no cane, no dogs, no cup. His scuffed-up shoes... that was his guide and driving force. He was the most independent dude I ever saw in my life. Ray would get blind only when pretty girls came around."

Signing with Atlantic Records in 1952, Charles as a West Coast jazz and blues man recorded such songs as "It Should've Been Me" and label co-founder Ahmet Ertegun's composition, "Mess Around."

Then he connected in 1954 with "I've Got a Woman," which set off a chain reaction of more hits capitalizing on his bold gospel/blues fusion. But Charles was just getting started. In 1958, he performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, accompanied by a band that featured such jazz cats as saxophonists David "Fathead" Newman and Hank Crawford. Further bucking convention, he recorded "The Genius of Ray Charles," a 1959 release offering standards on one side (including "Come Rain or Come Shine") and big band numbers on the other, featuring members of Count Basie's orchestra and several arrangements by Jones.


Video below: Charles' 1966 Coke commercial, "So Tired."



Leaving Atlantic for ABC-Paramount, a fearless Charles recorded the seminal "Genius + Soul = Jazz" album in 1961. A year later, his earlier dabbling in country music grew serious with the release of the million-selling "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music."

Complemented by lush strings and a harmony-rich choir, he scored with covers of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" and Ted Daffan's "Born to Lose"-and spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.




For a black man to do this in 1962 was unheard of," says Tony Gumina, president of the Ray Charles Marketing Group, which handles the late artist's licensing affairs. "He was trying to sell records to people who didn't want to drink from the same water fountain as him. But this was one of his greatest creative and business moves: to not be categorized musically and cross over. Though he never worried about it, he was resigned to the fact that he might lose some core fans. But he thought he'd gain far more in the process."

Gumina was operating his own promotion company working with state lotteries when he met Charles in 1999. The two teamed up on a series of commercials for various state lotteries and also introduced a line of Ray Charles slot machines also accessible to the blind.

"Everything he did had a business acumen to it," says Gumina, who cites Charles' liaison with manager Adams as a pivotal turning point. Originally hired to be Charles' stage announcer, former radio DJ Adams segued into overseeing production of the singer's shows, lighting and wardrobe.

Together the pair designed and built Charles' L.A. business base, RPM International (Recording, Publishing and Management) studio. When he began recording there in 1965, the label rented the studio from him, so he made money on his recordings before they were even released.

To save money on travel expenses, Charles purchased an airplane to ferry his band around to gigs. A smaller plane was also acquired so that Charles could wing in to, say, New York to record a couple of songs before flying back out in time for a show.

"He understood the entertainment business enough to know that you may not be popular forever," Gumina says, "and you need to maximize your product. At the same time, he had as much fun as any rock star but without the sad money stories. There was a time to work and a time to play, and he knew the difference. He didn't have a bunch of homes or a large entourage. That's why he was able to save $50 million before he died."

Calling Charles an "incredibly smart man," Concord president John Burk says he learned a lot from the ailing singer while he was recording his final studio album, "Genius Loves Company."

Video below: Ray Charles performs "It Ain't Easy Being Green" in Trentnton, NJ on Nov. 7, 2002.


Going through "some sticky deal points, he was amazing," Burk recalls. "He had the whole agreement in his head. Without referencing any material, he knew all the terms we proposed and had the deal done for the album in two discussions."

Creatively, Burk says Charles was an artist dedicated to delivering "a true performance from the heart. Part of his creative legacy was his approach to singing. He opened the door to vocal improvisations, changing how people perceived you could sing a song. Many singers today are influenced by him and they don't even know it."


Rare & Unseen Ray Charles Photos | Charles on the Charts

80th Birthday Year Events | Charles Charity

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