Monday, January 16, 2012

DIANA BARNATO

  Diana  Barnato Walker (1918  2008), by Bill Cross, 1943 

Diana Barnato Walker (1918–2008), by Bill Cross, 1943
Walker, Diana Barnato [née Diana Barnato] (1918–2008), aviator, was born on 15 January 1918 at 39 Elsworthy Road, Hampstead, London, the younger daughter of Woolf Joel Barnato (1895–1948), financier and racing driver, and his American first wife, Dorothy Maitland, née Falk. Her father, who was a captain in the Royal Field Artillery in the First World War, had inherited, at the age of two, the millions accumulated by his father Barney Barnato, the South African diamond magnate. After the war he became one of the celebrated ‘Bentley boys’ (he also bought a majority share in the Bentley company, of which he became chairman in 1925), and a highly successful racing driver, winning the Le Mans 24 hour race in 1928, 1929, and 1930. During the Second World War he served as a wing commander in the RAF, with responsibility for the defence of airfields in southern England.

Diana Barnato and her sister, Virginia, enjoyed the pleasures of high society, though Woolf separated from their mother when Diana was four. While their mother brought the girls up she maintained an amicable relationship with their father (who had two sons with his second wife, and married a third time shortly before his death). Diana was educated at Queen's College in Harley Street, London, until 1936, when she came out as a débutante and ‘did the season’. Disenchanted by the social rounds, she invested her allowance in flying lessons at the Brooklands Flying Club in Surrey at £3 per hour, rather than learn with the Civil Air Guard for a mere 7s. 6d. per hour. She wrote, ‘I was far too much of a snob to go to learn to fly with what I thought would be the hoi polloi’ (Spreading my Wings, 34). Having gone solo after six hours on a de Havilland Tiger Moth she ran out of money and had to stop.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War Diana Barnato worked as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse and with the Red Cross, but was attracted by the chance of flying with the Air Transport Auxiliary, although she had only ten hours' flying experience. She was tested by the chief flying instructor, but a riding injury then laid her up for six months. Meanwhile the Air Transport Auxiliary had set up a training programme, and after another test in December 1941 she became one of fewer than 170 ‘Atagirls’ (of whom sixteen were to lose their lives during the conflict).

The ATA's pilots ferried all types of military aircraft, from trainers to bombers, from factories to RAF stations or from maintenance units to squadrons. They had minimal pilot's notes and no radios, and often flew in marginal weather conditions. Barnato flew such aircraft as the single-engine Spitfire, Hurricane, Defiant, Mustang, Avenger, Wildcat, Vengeance, Firefly, Barracuda, and Tempest, and twin-engine types like the Oxford, Anson, Wellington, Warwick, Mosquito, Hudson, and Mitchell. She had her share of incidents. While flying a Supermarine Walrus air-sea-rescue amphibian, her least-liked aeroplane, from Cosford to Eastleigh on 19 September 1944, the windscreen was obscured by oil from the failing engine as she approached the Southampton balloon barrage at 1500 feet. Without power she could only push down the nose to prevent a stall and make a steep descent into the sea fog. Luckily she missed the balloon cables and emerged from the cloud a few feet above Eastleigh's grass airfield.

Three weeks after Barnato first met the battle of Britain fighter ace Squadron Leader Humphrey Trench Gilbert in 1942 they became engaged, but days later he died in a flying accident. Two years later, on 6 May 1944, she married another pilot, Wing Commander Derek Ronald Walker, and was docked three months' pay for making an unauthorized honeymoon flight to Brussels four months later in a Spitfire, accompanied by her husband in another. Derek Walker was killed in a flying accident shortly after the war's end, on 14 November 1945.

After the war Diana Barnato Walker, as she was now known, studied for the exams for a commercial pilot's licence, in company with the racing driver and industrialist Whitney Willard Straight (1912–1979), a naturalized American and former RAF air commodore. This led to a thirty-year relationship, and a son, Barney, was born in 1947, though Straight never left his wife, nor did Diana ask him to: ‘I was perfectly content. I had my own identity’ (The Times, 19 Nov 2005). Having gained her commercial licence she became a pilot for the Women's Junior Air Corps, giving the cadets air experience and training flights at weekends and accumulating many hours in the corps's Fairchild Argus and Auster aircraft. She had just taken off in the newly acquired Argus on 11 July 1948 when it burst into flames. Rather than bale out and lose a valuable aeroplane, she switched off the fuel and glided back to the airfield, where the flames were put out. In 1963, for her work with the corps, she was awarded the Jean Lennox Bird trophy, presented annually to a British woman pilot. On 26 August that year she became the first British woman to exceed the speed of sound, and the fastest woman in the world when she attained Mach 1.65 (1262 mph) in an English Electric Lightning T.4 trainer version of the RAF's front-line fighter. Shortly after this she won a battle with cancer.

In later years Diana Barnato Walker took up sheep farming and was master of the Old Surrey and Burstow foxhounds for thirteen seasons, while continuing to fly for the Women's Junior Air Corps (renamed in 1964 the Girls' Venture Corps). She also became commodore of the Air Transport Auxiliary Association. She died of pneumonia on 28 April 2008 in a hospital near her sheep farm in Surrey, and was survived by her son, Barney.

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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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