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Is Jamie Foxx Really Singing In The Ray Charles Biopic?

The 2004 biopic "Ray" stars Jamie Foxx as the iconic rhythm and blues singer and musician Ray Charles. Foxx's performance was well received, to say the least — in fact, it led to him winning the Academy Award for Best Actor. During his acceptance speech, Foxx says, "I guess we gotta do it again," before singing a couple notes (and having the audience sing a note back to him). Watching his acceptance speech, after having seen the film (which, of course, includes many musical numbers), may have you wondering one question: did Foxx really sing in "Ray"?

As it turns out, the answer is no — and there was a good reason for having Foxx lip sync instead. Speaking to VOA director Taylor Hackford explained, "Well, I had to have Ray Charles singing. These are masterpieces ... There are 35 songs in this film and you have to tell the story with Ray Charles's music. That's who the man was. That's what he defined himself as."

Still, Foxx didn't let the fact that he was lip syncing keep him from putting in a lot of work and preparation for his scenes — and heeding advice from Charles himself.

Foxx's performance was driven by advice from Charles

In the same piece for VOA, Jamie Foxx explained what it was like to meet Ray Charles — who died in 2004, the same year that "Ray" was released — ahead of the start of filming.

Foxx said, "Ray came in and grabbed my hands and says 'Yes, these are strong fingers.' Then we went straight to the piano. He said 'If you can play the blues, you can do anything.' So we started singing the blues back and forth to each other." Then, when Foxx hit the wrong note, Charles gave Foxx some advice that proved to be useful throughout the entire filming process, during the music scenes and otherwise. 

Foxx continued, "He said 'It's right underneath your fingers. The notes are right underneath your fingers.' So I used that as a metaphor for the whole movie: that life is notes underneath our fingers. We just have to take the time to find out which notes to play in order to get our music out there."

Foxx also explained that he wanted the film to seem as genuine as possible and to avoid the phony feeling that some other biopics have. To achieve this, he would pretend that he actually had a gig the following day as a real musician. Further, there was a real band on set for the scenes, and they would actually play music in between takes. The actor continued, "I would be in the room all night for hours getting ready for this gig that I'm playing. ... and I wanted to make sure we had every nuance of the performance down."