"American music" is a tough thing to get your hands around and define, isn’t it? There are the work songs and field calls of the South that would become the blues. There’s the blues' so-called brainier cousin — jazz — and its myriad branches. There are the spirituals of the churches, the country ballads from the lonesome West and Appalachian hills, the sophisticated arrangements of Tin Pan Alley. And then of course that curious mix of it all that would become known as soul, R&B and rock 'n' roll.

But perhaps we are making things too complicated here. Maybe we can sum up basically the entirety of American music in two simple words: “Ray Charles.”

You’ll get no argument from Matt Glaser on that one. He’s the artistic director of the American Roots Music Program at Berklee College of Music. He’s also the force behind a symposium the weekend of Sept. 22 that will examine Charles's nearly immeasurable contributions to American music. And not to bury the lede here, but the weekend also includes a concert where bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs, jazz guitarist John Scofield and others will pay tribute to Charles' music.

Before they get things started down at Berklee, Matt Glaser stops by the WGBH studios to play some great Ray Charles cuts and talk about the genius of Ray Charles and his unique place at the crossroads of blues, jazz, country and gospel.   

Matt Glaser, artistic director of the American Roots Music Program at Berklee College of Music

Ray did it all. The blues:

Let The Good Times Roll by Ray Charles on Grooveshark

Ray does country:

Ray does jazz:

Ray does gospel:

Ray does the Great American Songbook:

Ray does the Beatles, 1970s style: