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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Ray Charles

Ray Charles, original name Ray Charles Robinson    (born Sept. 23, 1930, Albany, Ga., U.S.—died June 10, 2004, Beverly Hills, Calif.), American pianist, singer, composer, and bandleader, a leading black entertainer billed as “the Genius.” Charles was credited with the early development of soul music, a style based on a melding of gospel, rhythm and blues, and jazz music.
When Charles was an infant his family moved to Greenville, Fla., and he began his musical career at age five on a piano in a neighbourhood café. He began to go blind at six, possibly from glaucoma, and had completely lost his sight by age seven. He attended the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind, where he concentrated on musical studies, but left school at age 15 to play the piano professionally after his mother died from cancer (his father had died when the boy was 10).
Charles built a remarkable career based on the immediacy of emotion in his performances. After emerging as a blues and jazz pianist indebted to Nat King Cole’s style in the late 1940s, Charles recorded the boogie-woogie classic “Mess Around” and the novelty song “It Should’ve Been Me” in 1952–53. Hisarrangement for Guitar Slim’s “The Things That I Used to Do” became a blues million-seller in 1953. By 1954 Charles had created a successful combination of blues and gospel influences and signed on with Atlantic Records. Propelled by Charles’s distinctive raspy voice, “I’ve Got a Woman” and “Hallelujah I Love You So” became hit records. “What’d I Say” led the rhythm and blues sales charts in 1959 and was Charles’s own first million-seller.
Charles’s rhythmic piano playing and band arranging revived the “funky” quality of jazz, but he also recorded in many other musical genres. He entered the pop market with the best-sellers “Georgia on My Mind” (1960) and “Hit the Road, Jack” (1961). His album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962) sold more than a million copies, as did its single “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Thereafter his music emphasized jazz standards and renditions of pop and show tunes.
Charles, Ray [Credit: AP]From 1955 Charles toured extensively in the United States and elsewhere with his own big band and a gospel-style female backup quartet called the Raeletts. He also appeared on television and worked in films such as Ballad in Blue (1964) and The Blues Brothers (1980) as a featured act and sound track composer. He formed his own custom recording labels, Tangerine in 1962 and Crossover Records in 1973. The recipient of many national and international awards, he received 13 Grammy Awards, including a lifetime achievement award in 1987. In 1986 Charles was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received a Kennedy Center Honor. He published an autobiography, Brother Ray, Ray Charles’ Own Story(1978), written with David Ritz.

Ray Charles

1930 - 2004

Often cited as "the genius of soul music, Ray Charles used his prodigious talents as singer, pianist, and bandleader to marry elements of blues and gospel into an exciting new genre. Initially ruling the R&B charts, Charles' gritty, passionate croon became the essence of soul and with his unique genre-crossing sensibility hit songs flourished throughout the 1950s and 1960s. He tackled styles as diverse as jazz, R&B, blues, pop, and country music, possessing each one fluently.

Ray Charles Robinson was born on September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia. Poverty and traumatic hardships shaped Ray's childhood. At five years old he witnessed the drowning of his younger brother in a laundry tub, an event that would haunt him for many years. At six Ray began losing his eye sight, presumably from untreated glaucoma, though it was never diagnosed. A year later he was completely blind.

A local general store owner became Ray's unlikely musical mentor. Wylie Pitman's Red Wing Café was home to a piano and a jukebox, two sources of alluring inspiration for a three year old boy. "Mr. Pit would often play boogie woogie piano and urged Ray to hop up and play regularly. In 1937, he was accepted on a charity grant to a school for the deaf and blind to study music. He received a formal education in composition and learned a variety of instruments including piano, organ, saxophone, clarinet, and trumpet. From the beginning his love of music was expansive, enjoying the popular big bands of the day like Artie Shaw and Count Basie or appreciating classical composers such as Chopin and Sibelius. He found pleasure in the hillbilly sounds of the Grand Ole Opry and was drawn to the soulfulness of gospel and the raw emotion of the blues. This openness to so many genres of music would become intrinsic to his own body of work.

Ray performed with various bands, including a country band, in Florida before getting the urge to move to Seattle in 1947. His reputation as a musician and arranger beginning to prosper, he and friend Gosady McKee formed a R&B/pop outfit called the McSon Trio (also misspelled Maxim Trio), in the vein of Charles Brown and his idol Nat King Cole. They recorded one major hit called "Confession Blues in 1949. Seattle was also where Ray first met a fourteen year old trumpet player named Quincy Jones. It would be a life-long friendship with occasional musical collaborations.

In the early 50s Ray rose steadily to prominence, launching hit singles with small bands and playing or arranging for others. He toured with blues artist Lowell Fulson and worked with both Guitar Slim and Ruth Brown, all of whom helped mold his own singing style. His sound now straying from the Nat King Cole inflections, it extended to blues ballads and jazz instrumentals sprinkled with gospel influences.

Atlantic Records offered him a contract late in 1952 and a hit soon followed with "It Should Have Been Me. Not until late 1954 did Ray form his own band and capitalize on the trademark blues/gospel blend that people came to know him for. Once that happened his muse broke free. Ray's warm vocal timbre relaying the spiritual screams, wails, and moans that would give birth to soul music. In a recording session that included an upbeat bop and R&B horn section he recorded his own composition "I Got a Woman. The song was buoyant with the blues, yet sung in a husky, passionate vocal straight from the gospel idiom that stemmed from Ray's Baptist church days. It was a crossover hit on both pop and R&B charts and made Ray Charles famous.

Atlantic allowed Ray an unusual amount of artistic freedom to bring what he wanted to the studio. He was still recording jazz and blues sides as well as R&B singles in the mode of "I Got a Woman. In 1957, searching for a fuller, more choir-like sound, Ray added female back-up singers to his records and touring, naming them The Raelettes. He continued to conquer the charts with songs like "A Fool for You," "Drown In My Own Tears," "Hallelujah I Love Her So," "The Right Time, and "Lonely Avenue." His foray into the pop charts occurred with "What'd I Say, an infectious number that opened with a sprightly electric piano line and caught fire like a Jerry Lee Lewis rock n' roll number, complete with pleading back-up vocals from the Raelettes.

Feeling the need to expand his sound again Ray went into the studio in 1959 and recorded with the accompaniment of strings and a big band. Six of the tracks were arranged by his old friend Quincy Jones and included veteran Count Basie and Duke Ellington sidemen. Another six tracks were orchestrated ballads. The resulting album would aptly be namedThe Genius of Ray Charles and enhanced Ray's reputation even wider.

Ray Charles

Charles, Ray 1930–

Ray Charles 1930

Vocalist, musician, composer, arranger
At a Glance
Rays Early Days
On The Road
Atlantic Records
A New Direction
The Legend Lives On
Selected discography
Above all his many talents is the innate ability of Ray Charles to interpret and sing songs in such a way as to fill the words from the depths of his own heart, carrying this emotion to the listener. As quoted in author Joe GoldbergJazz Masters of the 50s, Ray says, I sing the songs for what they mean to me. However, his highly regarded singing has tended to obscure his other considerable accomplishments as a blues pianist, band leader, composer, and arranger. Jazz musicians speak of a quality called the cry, a quality that echoes the blues no matter what is being played. The cry of blues permeates every Charles performance, said Goldberg.
Ray Charles Robinson was born in Albany, Georgia on September 23, 1930, son of Bailey and Aretha Robinson. Ray is the father of nine children, three by his former wife DellaRay, Jr., David, and Robert. Ray and his beloved mother Aretha moved to Greenville, Florida when Ray was six-months-old. Rays absent father, Bailey Robinson, was a migrant railroad worker who Ray never knew. Times were tough for Ray, his younger brother George, and Rays mother during their Greenville years. In his autobiography entitled, Brother Ray, Ray recalled that Even compared to the other blacks in Greenville, we were at the bottom of the ladder. Tragically, at the age of five-years-old, young Ray helplessly watched as his four-year-old brother George drowned in a washtub from which Ray was unable to pull him out. Thereafter, Rays eyesight worsened considerably from glaucoma, leaving Ray completely blind by the age of seven. Ray then attended a state school in St. Augustine for the deaf and blind.
Despite being born into extreme poverty, Ray has created a prolific body of work spanning five decades. Proficient in numerous styles, Rays recordings are rich in blues, jazz, and country, and he has been simultaneously thought of as the best rock n roll singer, best jazz singer, and best pop singer, at times second only to Sinatra. Possessed of a sound which remains widely imitated by prominent artists and having been honored with numerous awards during his career, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, it is Rays title as Father of Soul Music, which seems to stick with him. However, Ray does not care to be pigeonholed into any one category. When told that he has successfully avoided all attempts to be categorized, he replies in Goldbergs

At a Glance

Born Ray Charles Robinson, September 23, 1930, Albany, GA, son of Bailey and Aretha Robinson; married 23 years and divorced from Della; their children- Ray, Jr., David, and Robert. Father of six other children. Raised in Greenville, FL and began playing piano as a small child. Lost sight at age seven from glaucoma. Learned classical piano while attending school for deaf and blind in St. Augustine, FL.
Career: Began touring with dance bands at age 15; road job with Lowell Fulsom led to a booking at Harlems Appollo Theatre; formed Swing-time Trio in Seattle; recording artist for Atlantic Records 1952-59; ABC-Paramount, 1959-65; and his own labels Tangerine Records 1965-73, Crossover Records Co., 1973-. Sang in We Are the World in 1985. Numerous TV and concert appearances including, Ray Charles, 50 Years in Music and Uh-Huh advertising for Pepsi-Cola in 1991, 1992. Compilations include The Ray Charles Story (1962); A Man and His Soul (1967);25th Anniversary in Show Business Salute to Ray Charles (1971); The Right Time (1987); The Collection(1990, ABC recordings); The Birth of Soul (1991); The Living Legend (1993). Films include Blues For Lovers a.k.a. Ballad in Blue (1964) and The Blues Brothers (1980).
Selected awards: Bronze medallion, French Republic; Image award, NAACP; Named#1 malesinger, 16th Intl. Jazz Critics Poll, 1968; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1986; 10 Grammy awards, including Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, 1987; Playboy Jazz and Pop Hall of Fame; Songwriters Hall of Fame; honorary lifetime chairman of Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame; and Leadership award, NAFEO, 1991. Selected gold records include: Ray Charles Greatest Hits, 1962; Modern Sound in Country and Western Music, Vol 1 and Vol. 2, 1962, 1963; Ray Charles: A Man and His Soul, 1967.
Addresses: Ray Charles Entertainment, 2107 W. Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90018.
book, I consider that a compliment. I dont want to be branded. I dont want the rhythm-and-blues brand, or the pop brand, or any other. Thats why I try all these different things.... I know not everybody likes everything I do. Some like one thing, and some another. But I try to please everybody, while doing what I want. Im an entertainer. Ray is possessed of a quick, curious mind, a wide grasp of current affairs, and a ready laugh. Ray feels that he has been blessedwith regard to his talent, and there are many who would agree with him.

Rays Early Days

While in St. Augustine, Ray learned to read, compose, and write music in braille, as well as to play the clarinet, trumpet, saxophone, and keyboards. Though Ray became familiar with classical music there, it was at the upright piano of Wylie Pittman, a local grocer, where Ray first experienced playing the piano. Robert Palmer writes that Ray fondly recalls visiting Wylies after school, where ... hed let me sit on the piano stool or in the chair next to him and bang on the piano with him. Ray credits four pianists as influencing him the most as a child: Art Tatum, Bud Powell, King Cole, and Oscar Peterson. Rays excellence as a blues pianist is evident on his instrumental albums, including The Great Ray Charles. Long-time friend, arranger Quincy Jones, credits Rays piano abilities as a major factor in the success of Rays recordings. Young Ray possessed a natural talent for music and, by age twelve, was reportedly able to arrange and score all parts of big band or orchestral music. As a child, Ray listened to a wide variety of blues and swing along with the weekly Grand Ole Opry and gospel music of his Baptist church. All of this can account for Rays eclectic, original style.

On The Road

While in St. Augustines at age 15, Ray learned of his mothers death. Rays father had also died several years earlier. With no immediate family left, Ray moved to Jacksonville, Florida in search of work. Ray recalled those days as being rough times, however, he felt that his youth provided him with a certain resilience. Soon, Ray was playing in numerous small bands across the state of Florida. By 1948, now 18-years-old, Ray was a seasoned road musician. Around the same time, however, Ray was well acquainted with heroin use, which he continued using for many years to come. However, the ambitious Ray was determined to make his way in music and he purchased an early wire recorder, recording some demo tapes in Tampa, Florida.
Once he had saved around $600 from performances, Ray travelled to the West Coast, settling for a time in Seattle. Out west, he met Quincy Jones and Bumps Blackwell, producer of the original Little Richard hits. Ray also successfully assembled a trio of guitar, bass, and piano, dropping his last name Robinson so as not to be confused with then popular boxer, Sugar Ray Robinson. Rays trio came to the attention of Jack Lauderdale of Downbeat and later Swingtime records. By 1950, Ray had moved to Los Angeles and was cutting records for Swingtime. One of Rays daughters was also born during this year by a woman named Louise.
In 1951, Ray recorded a hit popular with the black community known as Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand which reached the Top 10 on the rhythm and blues charts. This, along with other Swingtime singles, were in the style of Nat King Cole and Charles Brown, as young Ray had not yet mastered his own style. He tried to sound like them in order to get work, especially club work.

Atlantic Records

During this same period, Ray toured with blues singer Lowell Fulsom and became the pianist for Fulsoms band. Near the end of 1951, Swingtime records opted to drop Ray and Atlantic Records partners Ahmet Ertegun, Herb Abramson, and Jerry Wexler snatched him up without ever having seen him, paying around $2,500 for his contract. For his beginning sessions with Atlantic, Ray was teamed with an extraordinarily talented group of New York studio players under the direction of Jesse Stone including guitarist Mickey Baker, drummer Connie Kay, and bassist Lloyd Trotman. Apparently Jesse Stone was dissatisfied with his inability to take direction, learning some years later that Ray was better at giving, rather than receiving, direction. Nonetheless, a compromise between his individualism and the commercial rhythm and blues marketplace provided Ray with an Atlantic hit, a year and a half after signing with them. Despite his temperament, the Atlantic partners never treated Ray as just another artist. To them, he was a musical genius with a lot more to offer than writing and singing songs.
Ray worked out of New Orleans for much of 1953, the final period of his formative years. However, the Louisiana rhythm had less affect on his overall work than some have speculated. By this time, Ray was well on his way to a comfortable, innovative style. Actually, his mid-fifties band arrangements more closely resembled the style of James Brown than New Orleans rhythm and blues. Rays original style also emerged as a result of his work with Guitar Slim, whose crude gospel blues greatly influenced him. He even arranged Slims million-selling single,Things That I Used To Do. Early recordings are based on blues and gospel forms, including the soulful, A Fool For You, What Would I Do Without You?, Its Allright, and Drown In My Own Tears. During this time, Ray divorced his wife of approximately 16 months, a beautician named Eileen, and subsequently remarried Della.
In the fall of 1954, Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records traveled to Atlanta to hear Rays latest batch of songs which differed radically from his expert imitations of Nat King Cole, Charles Brown, and Louis Jordan of the previous six years. Ray had learned to unite gospel and blues music together for the incredible birth of soul music. Once his new music caught on, he became known as The Genius and The Bishop. From New Orleans, Ray moved on to Dallas, where he put together his first true band, with bandleader Renald Richard. The band began performing with Ruth Brown from El Paso throughout Florida. During this time, saxophonist David (Fathead) Newman joined the band, and Ray and Richard developed the song, I Got A Woman, which marked the turning point in his music from rhythm and blues to soul, exuding the fervor of the Baptist Church. In November of 1954 Charles extended an invitation to Atlantic executives Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler which resulted in a meeting at the Peacock Club in Atlanta. It was there that Wexler first realized the overall change in Rays music. However, Nesuhi Ertegun, Ahmets brother, acknowledged that Rays style was not necessarily unique, as noted by author Robert Palmer, Ray was not the first to do this, combine gospel and blues. He is the best of a long tradition, but there were people singing this way twenty years ago. But Ray was able to bring so much of his own to it.
Early Atlantic recordings were made with Ray while he performed in Atlanta, Florida, and New York. Nesuhi Ertegun viewed this as an advantage for recording purposes, as it gave Ray a chance to work out his arrangements on the road. Upon his return to Atlanta, Wexler and Ertegun managed to produce his first number one hit album, I Got a Woman, a confirmation of the greatness of Ray Charles. The release of Rays next single, I Got A Woman, also soared to number one on the rhythm and blues charts. The extraordinary success of his new style, both commercially and artistically, spurred similar hit songs to follow, including, This Little Girl of Mine (1955), Talkin Bout You (1957), and Dont Let The Sun Catch You Crying (1959), whose call-and-response style was fully realized with Rays mega-hit, Whatd I Say? in 1959. This song remains a favorite closing number among performing soul singers worldwide.
Also during this period Americas white youth discovered recordings by black artists. Elvis Presley had helped to erode racial barriers and, in fact, was somewhat of a Ray Charles fan. However, despite the fact that Atlantic executives wished to pursue sales in the white pop marketplace, Ray refused to compromise his musical style with the simpler beat, adolescent lyrics, and smoother singing. He continued on with his soulful music, and his recordings continued to sell, albeit largely among the black community. Atlantic continued to support Ray in his endeavors, hence, his soul music was undiluted and some of his landmark songs from this time were even more soulful than his earlier recordings, including Come Back Baby, Drown In My Own Tears, and Hallelujah I Love Her So.
Interestingly enough, Ray does not see his pivotal role in the creation of soul music. He said,When people ask me what I think about soul music.... I think all these terms are names that the media give the music in order to try to describe what they mean. I dont know the difference between rhythm and blues, soul music, and the black version of disco; the rhythm patterns are the same, recalled Robert Palmer. Ray also shied away from taking credit for the creation of rock and roll, feeling that his music was more adult and filled with despair, considering rhythm and blues as genuine down-to-earth Negro music. Of all his tunes from the mid-fifties, onlySwanee River Rock remotely resembles rock and roll, and it became Rays first significant pop hit, reaching number 34 on the Billboard chart. In Jazz Masters of the 50s, Ray speaks of his work in this way, The things I write and sing about concern the general Joe and his general problems. There are four basic things: love, somebody runnin his mouth too much, having fun, and jobs are hard to get.... When I put myself in the place of the... general Joe Im singing about,... I sing with all the feeling I can put into it, so that I can feel it myself.
Luckily for Ray his band was flexible, extemporaneous, and talented enough to accommodate his sense of musical perfection. Until 1959, Rays band had two saxophonists, with him playing a third, alto sax. He realized a stroke of luck when, around this time, baritone saxophonist LeroyHog Cooper joined the band. The band now consisted of Hank Crawford on alto, Newman on tenor, and Cooper on baritone sax. There were also two trumpeters, Joe Bridgewater and Marcus Belgrave, with William Peoples as the primary drummer and Roosevelt Sheffield as bassist. Between 1957 and 1959, with the expansion of his band, Ray delved into greater musical forays, including an extended interest in country and western music. From here, he recruited three female singers to contrast against his voice, reminiscent of traditional call-and-response gospel singing. The female singers included Mary Ann Fisher, Darlene McRae, and Margie Hendrix. Thereafter, the chorus became known as the Raeletts. The hit single, What Kind of Man Are You is a splendid example of the intense, spiritual feel provided to Rays music with the addition of the Raeletts. His musical scores continued to expand and I Want A Little Girl,swing oriented, Yes Indeed, with jazz elements, and I Had A Dream with rich gospel sounds, all came out of this time. Whatd I Say? his first million-seller song, was one of the finest renderings of the call-and-response pattern between Ray and his new girls. The suggestion of sex in this particular song, however, resulted in its first being played only by black radio stations until it was covered by Elvis Presley, at which time the white radio stations also picked it up.
Despite his past inconsistencies in terms of concert arrival times, drug abuse, and temperamental ways, Ray has always been a superb musician and gracious performer who captivates his audience. Fortunately, Atlantic records took advantage of Rays live audience appeal, recording two in-person appearances, Ray Charles at Newport and Ray Charles In Person, where the live vocals take on a quality not easily captured in the studio. It was the Atlantic executives who first recognized Ray as a genius, not hesitating to call him such, as they considered Rays whole approach to music as very different from anybody elses. Despite his denial of same, he pioneered a style of music during the 1950s like no other up to that time. During his final days with Atlantic, Ray experimented musically with a passion, leaving Atlantic with his final recording, The Genius of Ray Charles which decidedly freed him from the stereotype of rock n roll singer and sealing him firmly as Mr. Soul to use one artists words. Ray had a large hand in the arrangement of this album, resulting in three triumphant singles, Dont Let The Sun Catch You CryinAm I Blue, and Come Rain or Come Shine. When Rays Atlantic contract expired in late 1959, ABC-Paramount made him a rare and generous offer and he moved on.

A New Direction

In 1961 Ray and Betty Carter collaborated on an album that produced the hit, Baby Its Cold Outside. While Atlantic felt a terrible loss when Charles left, ABC was well satisfied as Ray churned out one mega-hit after another, including, Georgia on My Mind (1960) and Hit The Road Jack in 1961, thereby establishing himself as an international artist. In 1962, Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music was released to massive sales. A single from this album, I Cant Stop Loving You, sold three million copies. Though Rays crossover into country music caused significant controversy, the popularity of his recording spawned a second volume under the same name with several more hits. He did not become mainstreamed like most black country artists, but rather, retained his gospel-blues sound. Ray changed stylistically somewhat, though, in 1961, as he moved from a blues shouter to a crooner of soul, achieving a phenomenal sweep of four Grammy awards on April 21, 1961 for Best Vocal Performer (male); Best Single (Georgia on My Mind); Best Album (The Genius of Ray Charles); and Best Song (Let the Good Times Roll).
While Ray was an unquestioned success, he was also a long-term drug user. On November 14, 1961, Ray was arrested on a narcotics charge in an Indiana hotel room, where he awaited to perform. The detectives seized heroin, marijuana, and other items. Ray, then 31-years-old, stated that he had been a drug addict since the age of 16. While the case was dismissed because of the manner in which the evidence was obtained, his situation did not improve until a few years later. Individuals who cared for Ray, such as Quincy Jones and Reverend Henry Griffin, felt that those around Ray were responsible for his drug use, as he was unable to obtain or administer drugs to himself, given his blindness. By 1964 Rays drug addiction caught up with him and he was arrested for possession of marijuana and heroin. Following a self-imposed stay at St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood, California, where he kicked his drug habit in 96 hours, Ray received five years probation. From the mid-60s on, he stuck to relatively popular tunes, though there were exceptions, including, I Dont Need No Doctor, Lets Go Get Stoned, and the release of his first album since kicking his heroin habit, the impassioned Cryin Time.

The Legend Lives On

By the late 1970s Rays 20-year marriage to Della Robinson ended. His lengthy absences and womanizing were contributing factors to the breakdown of the marriage. Rays work in the 1980s included more country music as well as a cameo appearance in the film, The Blues Brothers.However, it is his powerful performance on the USA for Africa release We Are the World in 1985 which fans recall most. Come the 1990s, Ray is still going strong, continuing with live performances, accompanied by his 17-piece band and the now five members of the Raeletts. Rays continual rearrangements of old favorites such as I Feel So Bad and Just for a Thrill,cement his reputation as The Genius of Soul. Ray was selected by Pepsi-Cola to act as their spokes-singer with a catchy Uh-Huh theme that resulted in one of the most likeable and memorable advertisement campaigns of 1991. Additionally, he was featured on public televisionAmerican Masters on January 3, 1992 in Ray Charles: The Genius of Soul In this documentary, written, directed, and narrated by Yvonne Smith, Ray is touted as a national treasure. The documentary celebrated the his legendary career through his battles with drugs, notorious pursuit of women, and marriage of 23 years. Through it all, Ray is a survivor. The documentary showed him as the driven, complicated, exceptionally talented individual and musician which he remains.
RayMy World, released in 1993 by Warner Brothers, was his first major encounter with programmed percussion, a great difference for the artist so used to fine tuning his own musicians. Nonetheless, My World proved to be one of Rays finest releases in years, with a return to his earlier form. At 62 years of age, he continued to transform ordinary songs with powerful ingenuity. Ray can change the harmony, phrasing, lyrics, tempo, or whatever works for him, while performing a song, causing his tunes to touch the listeners heart. On October 7, 1993, President Clinton honored 18 distinguished Americans, including Ray Charles, with a silver medal for contributions to our nations cultural life. As quoted in The New York Times,Clinton recognized Ray and others with these words, These extraordinary individuals have made a gift to American cultural life that is beyond measure. In 1995, at age 64, Ray performed at the Avery Fisher Hall as part of the JVC Jazz Festival and showed that he was able to stir emotion within his audience, this time through the famous, Georgia on My Mind. Ray remains one of Americas greatest singers and The New York Times reports that, Behind his comedy, there [is] melancholy; behind the melancholy, resilience. Author Goldberg shares Rays own words, All music is related... if you feel and believe in your music, that conviction carries over to the public. You can create a very strong emotional bond between yourself and your listener that way. At 66 years of age, Ray Charles endures.

Selected discography

Hallelujah I Love Her So aka Ray Charles (Atlantic)
Soul Brothers (Atlantic)
Ray Charles at Newport (Atlantic)
Yes Indeed (Atlantic)
Ray Charles (Hollywood)
The Fabulous Ray Charles (Hollywood)
Whatdl Say (Atlantic)
The Genius of Ray Charles (Atlantic)
Ray Charles in Person (Atlantic)
Genius Hits the Road (ABC-Paramount)
The Genius After Hours (ABC-Paramount)
The Genius Sings the Blues (Atlantic)
Soul Meeting (Atlantic)
Do The Twist With Ray Charles (Atlantic)
Dedicated To You (ABC-Paramount)
Genius + Soul = Jazz (Atlantic)
Modern Sounds in Country and Western (ABC-Paramount)
Modern Sounds in Country and Western Vol. 2 (ABC-Paramount)
Ingredients in a Recipe for Soul (ABC-Paramount)
Sweet and Sour Tears (ABC-Paramount)
Have A Smile With Me (ABC-Paramount)
Live In Concert (ABC-Paramount)
Country and Western Meets Rhythm and Blues aka Together Again (ABC-Paramount)
Cryin Time (ABC-Paramount)
Rays Moods (ABC-Paramount)
A Portrait of Ray (ABC/TRC)
Im All Yours Baby! (ABC/TRC)
Doin His Thing (ABC/TRC)
The Birth of Soul (Atlantic)
My World (Warner)



The African American Almanac, 6th edition. Gale Research, 1994, 7th edition, 1995.
Goldberg, Joe. Jazz Masters of the Fifties. The MacMillan Co.; New York, 1965.
The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Vol. 1, edited by Colin Larkin. Stockton Press, New York, 1995.
Palmer, Robert. The Birth of Soul (discography booklet insert). Atlantic Records, New York, 1991.
The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll. Edited by Jon Pereles and Patricia Romanowski. Rolling Stone Press: New York, 1983.
White, Timothy. Rock Lives. Henry Holt & Co., New York, 1990. pp. 27-31.


New York Times, Jan 3, 1992, p. B13; February 14, 1992, p. D19; August 4, 1993, p. C17; October 10, 1993, p. C3; June 26, 1995, p. C11.
Washington Post, August 22, 1991, p. D3; November 8, 1991, p. WW20; March 3, 1996, p. B2; April 4, 1993, p. D7.

Ray Charles Biography

Ray Charles was a pioneer of soul music, integrating R&B, gospel, pop and country to creat hits like "Unchain My Heart," "Hit the Road Jack" and "Georgia on My Mind." A blind genius, he is considered one of the greatest artists of all time.


Born in Georgia in 1930, Ray Charles was a legendary musician who pioneered the genre of soul music during the 1950s. Often called the "Father of Soul," Charles combined blues, gospel and jazz to create groundbreaking hits such as "Unchain My Heart," "Hit the Road Jack" and "Georgia on My Mind." He died in 2004, leaving a lasting impression on contemporary music.

Early Life

Ray Charles Robinson was born on September 23, 1930, in Albany, Georgia. His father, a mechanic, and his mother, a sharecropper, moved the family to Greenville, Florida when he was an infant. One of the most traumatic events of his childhood was witnessing the drowning death of his younger brother.
Soon after his brother's death, Charles gradually began to lose his sight. He was blind by the age of 7, and his mother sent him to a state-sponsored school, the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, Florida—where he learned to read, write and arrange music in Braille. He also learned to play piano, organ, sax, clarinet and trumpet. The breadth of his musical interests ranged widely, from gospel to country, to blues.

Musical Evolution

Charles's mother died when he was 15, and for a year he toured on the "Chitlin' Circuit" in the South. While on the road, he picked up a love for heroin.
At the of age 16, Charles moved to Seattle. There, he met a young Quincy Jones, a friend and collaborator he would keep for the rest of his life. Charles performed with the McSon Trio in 1940s. His early playing style closely resembled the work of his two major influences—Charles Brown and Nat King Cole. Charles later developed his distinctive sound.
In 1949, he released his first single, "Confession Blues," with the Maxin Trio. The song did well on the R&B charts. More success on the R&B charts followed with "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand" and "Kissa Me Baby." By 1953, Charles landed a deal with Atlantic Records. He celebrated his first R&B hit single with the label, "Mess Around."

Critical Acclaim

A year later, Charles's now classic song, "I Got a Woman," reached No. 1 on the R&B charts. The song reflected an advance in his musical style. He was no longer a Nat King Cole imitator. His fusion of gospel and R&B helped to create a new musical genre known as soul. By the late 1950s, Charles began entertaining the world of jazz, cutting records with members of the Modern Jazz Quartet.
Fellow musicians began to call Charles "The Genius," an appropriate title for the ramblin' musician, who never worked in just one style, but blended and beautified all that he touched (he also earned the nickname "Father of Soul"). Charles's biggest success was perhaps his ability to cross over into pop music too, reaching No. 6 on the pop chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart with his hit "What'd I Say."
The year 1960 brought Charles his first Grammy Award for "Georgia on My Mind," followed by another Grammy for the single "Hit the Road, Jack." For his day, he maintained a rare level of creative control over his own music. Charles broke down the boundaries of music genres in 1962 with Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. On this album, he gave his own soulful interpretations of many country classics. While thriving creatively, Charles struggled in his personal life. He continued to battle with heroin addiction. In 1965, Charles was arrested for possession.

Later Career

Charles avoided jail after his arrest for possession by finally kicking the habit at a clinic in Los Angeles. His releases in the 1960s and '70s were hit-or-miss, but he remained one of music's most respected stars. Charles won a Grammy Award for his rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City." Three years later, he released his autobiography Brother Ray.
In 1980, Charles appeared in the comedy The Blues Brothers with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. The music icon received a special honor a few years later as one of the first people inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Charles was recognized for his contributions to the genre alongside such fellow luminaries as James Brown, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke and Buddy Holly.
Charles returned to the spotlight in the early 1990s with several high-profile appearances. He also recorded commercials for Pepsi-Cola, singing "You Got the Right One, Baby!" as his catchphrase, and performed "We Are the World" for the organization USA for Africa alongside the likes of Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen and Smokey Robinson.

Death and Legacy

In 2003, Charles had to cancel his tour for the first time in 53 years. He underwent hip replacement surgery. While that operation was successful, Charles soon learned he was suffering from liver disease. He died on June 10, 2004, at his home in Beverly Hills, California. During his lifetime, Charles recorded more than 60 albums and performed more than 10,000 concerts.
Longtime friend Quincy Jones was just of many who mourned the passing of Charles. "There will never be another musician who did as much to break down the perceived walls of musical genres," Jones stated, according to The New York Times. "Ray used to say that if he had a dime, he would give me a nickel. Well, I would give that nickel back to have him still be here with us, but I know that heaven has become a much better place with him in it." More than 1,500 people came to say goodbye to the musical legend at his funeral. B.B. King, Willie Nelson and Stevie Wonder were among those who performed at the service.
Charles's final album, Genius Loves Company, released two months after his death, consists of duets with various admirers and contemporaries. His life story became a hit film entitled Ray later that year. Jamie Foxx starred as the legendary performer, and he won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Charles.

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

In the popular imagination Ray Charles will probably always be linked with his rendition of "Georgia on My Mind," his number-one pop hit of 1960. Over the next forty years, this "old sweet song" remained his signature piece, becoming Georgia's official state song in 1979.As a performer and recording artist in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Ray Charles pioneered 
As a performer and recording artist in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Ray Charles pioneered a new style of music that became known as &quotsoul," a blend of gospel music, blues, and jazz that brought him worldwide fame. Ray Charles
a new style of music that became known as "soul," a blend of gospel music, blues, and jazz that brought him worldwide fame. Over the next four decades his unique voice, passionate style of playing the piano, and tireless showmanship made him a legendary figure in the world of entertainment.

Early Years

Ray Charles Robinson was born in Albany on September 23, 1930, the same year that Hoagy Carmichael composed "Georgia on My Mind." A few months after his birth his mother, Aretha Williams, moved with RC (as everybody called the young Charles) to Greenville, a small town in north Florida.
At the age of five Charles slowly began to lose his sight, most likely as a result of congenital juvenile glaucoma. In the same year his younger brother drowned. Despite these setbacks and dire poverty, his mother pushed Charles toward greater independence. After he was declared legally blind at the age of seven, she enrolled him in the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, where he remained for nine years, until her death in 1945.
As Charles describes in his 1978 memoirs, his early years were filled with music. Although no one in his family was a musician (his mostly absent father, Bailey Robinson, was a railroad employee), he found music in every direction: the raw, emotional sounds of gospel music in the church, the jukebox at the general store that blasted out the blues, the boogie-woogie that the store owner would play on piano with the attentive young boy at his side. Charles also listened to big band music on the radio, along with hillbilly tunes from the Grand Ole Opry. At the school for the blind, Charles learned to read music and play Frederic Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Johann Strauss. Over time he also discovered jazz music and a deep appreciation of jazz pianist Art Tatum.

Professional Years

In 1945 the fifteen-year-old Charles
Ray Charles began his professional career at age fifteen, playing in Jacksonville and Orlando, Florida. He later relocated to the West Coast to pursue better career opportunities, moving first to Seattle in 1948 and then to Los Angeles in 1950.Ray Charles
left school to make his living as a professional musician. His early travels took him to nearby Jacksonville and Orlando, Florida, where his reputation grew as a versatile piano player, saxophone player, and arranger who could handle blues, jazz, boogie-woogie, swing, or hillbilly. He imitated the smooth vocals of popular singers Charles Brown and Nat King Cole, and wouldn't develop his own singing style for at least another decade.
After his move to Seattle, Washington, in 1948 to pursue better career opportunities on the West Coast, Charles's show-business persona began to emerge. He dropped his last name to avoid possible confusion with the well-known boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. He also began wearing the dark glasses that would become his trademark. More important, he recorded his first song, which he followed the next year with his first national hit on the black charts ("Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand"). At the time black culture was isolated and largely ignored by white mainstream culture, which accepted only a few black musicians, including Brown and Cole, as well as Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, and Louis Armstrong.
In 1950 Charles moved to Los Angeles, California, which later became his permanent home and the location of his private recording studio, to seek his own popular success and financial independence. For the next few years he toured on the road, playing behind other musicians, often enduring long trips through the segregated South.

Soul Years

Once Charles began traveling, 
Ray Charles developed his signature sound of expressive piano playing and rough vocals during the 1950s. The contrasting vocals of the Raeletts, the female backup singers who joined the band in 1957, were another important hallmark of his style.Ray Charles
performing, and recording with his own band, the voice that would become his trademark took shape. His 1954 rhythm-and-blues hit for Atlantic Records, "I Got a Woman," was an electrifying synthesis of gospel music, blues, jazz, and boogie-woogie that became the pattern for future hit songs. It also brought howls of protest from those who claimed his music was sacrilegious.
Charles insisted that he was only doing what came naturally—playing the music that came straight from his soul. By doing so, he appealed to a youthful audience of blacks and whites alike who supported a new generation of energetic young black musicians that included Charles, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard.
Toward the end of 1955 Charles began experimenting with female backup singers, taking his cue from girls' gospel groups. Once he discovered the combination of feminine harmony with his strong, masculine vocals, he made the Raeletts a permanent addition to the band in 1957. By that time all the elements that would define Charles's unique style were in place: the gruff vocals that could express any degree of loneliness or exuberance, the expressive piano playing, the professional backup musicians who could follow his lead wherever he wanted to go, and the backup singers.
Over the 
Musician Ray Charles plays the piano and sings &quotGeorgia on My Mind" for the Georgia General Assembly on March 7, 1979. The legislature later voted to make the song the official state song of Georgia.Ray Charles
next few years Charles recorded three number-one pop hits. "Georgia on My Mind" (1960) was followed by "Hit the Road Jack" (1961) and "I Can't Stop Loving You" (1962). The last song was included on a country and western album that surprised many critics and fans, but he insisted that it was a natural expression of his musical heritage.
Charles's performing and touring did take a toll on his personal and family life, however. His second marriage, to Della Howard, produced three children, but two paternity suits in the early 1960s revealed that he had fathered several more children out of wedlock. In 1964 he was arrested for possession of heroin and later admitted that he had been addicted since the late 1940s. After a period of rehabilitation at a California sanitarium, Charles kicked his drug habit and received a five-year suspended sentence.


Charles's music 
Ray Charles addresses the Georgia Legislature in 1979, after his rendition of &quotGeorgia On My Mind," a number-one hit in 1960, was named the official state song of Georgia.State Song Ceremony
and reputation endured into the twenty-first century. His vibrant personality reached a new generation of fans in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers and in a 1990 Diet Pepsi commercial. He was the first performer inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame (1979), and he is also honored in the Blues Foundation's Blues Hall of Fame (1982 )and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1986). He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1993. Charles died on June 10, 2004, of acute liver disease at his home in Beverly Hills, California.
In the months following his death, the legacy of Ray Charles continued to grow. A final album, Genius Loves Company, was released in September 2004 and consists of duets with twelve prominent singers. Charles's duet with Norah Jones, "Here We Go Again," won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year, while Genius Loves Company won the Grammy for Album of the Year. The motion pictureRay, which opened in October 2004, chronicles his childhood and career through the 1960s. 
Ray Charles Plaza, part of Albany's Flint River Walk, opened in December 2007 to honor musician Ray Charles. The plaza includes a bronze rotating statue of Charles, created by sculptor Andy Davis; a surrounding waterfall; and walkways engraved to look like piano keys. Ray Charles Plaza
Directed by Taylor Hackford, the film features Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in a widely acclaimed performance that garnered the actor both Golden Globe and Academy awards.
A special exhibition of memorabilia and video recordings entitled "The Genius of Ray Charles" opened in November 2004 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, and in September 2005 Rhino Records released Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959), a CD/DVD boxed set.
The Ray Charles Plaza in Albany, which commemorates the singer with a bronze revolving statue, opened in December 2007.
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