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For other people named James Ray, see James Ray (disambiguation).

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 the US Billboard R&B chart. and number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962.[1] He also recorded the original version of "Got My Mind Set on You", later a number-one hit for George Harrison.

James Ray (singer)
Birth nameJames Jay Raymond
Also known asLittle Jimmy Ray
Born1941 (1941)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
DiedAbout 1964 (age about 23)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
GenresRhythm and blues, soul
Years active1950s – 1960s


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 when Gerry Granahan of Caprice Records heard him rehearsing one of Clark's songs, signed 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 top 5 of the UK Singles Chart 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 No. 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 tributesEdit

  • The Beatles began performing "If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody" live after Paul McCartney heard it in one of the Nems record stores owned by Beatles manager Brian Epstein. McCartney waxed enthusiastic about it being an R&B number in waltz time, and Beatles biographer Mark Lewisohn called the record's sound "magical" in his book Tune In: The Beatles - All These Years, Vol. 1.[5]
  • 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 a jukebox he owned in his home (the contents of which were issued as a double album in 2004 after the jukebox itself was purchased at an auction).
  • In 1967 a cover of the song was released by Maxine Brown.[6]
  • Ronnie Wood, guitarist for Faces and The Rolling Stones, covered "If You Got to Make a Fool of Somebody" on his 1974 debut solo album, I've Got My Own Album to Do.


  1. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 365.
  2. ^ a b Jason Ankeny. "James Ray | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
  3. ^ a b "James Ray". Retrieved 2016-07-26.
  4. ^ Doc Rock. "The 1960s". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
  5. ^ Mark Lewisohn. "Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years". p. 937. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
  6. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine (1939-08-18). "Maxine Brown | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-07-26.