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Ray Charles Robinson Sr. (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004) was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. Among friends and fellow musicians he preferred being called "Brother Ray". He was often referred to as "the Genius". Charles was blinded during childhood, possibly due to
glaucoma Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which result in damage to the optic nerve The optic nerve, also known as cranial nerve II, or simply as CN II, is a paired cranial nerve Cranial nerves are the nerve A nerve is an enclosed, cable-li ...

glaucoma
. Charles pioneered the
soul music Soul music (often referred to simply as soul) is a popular music genre that originated in the African-American culture, African American community throughout the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s. It combines elements of African-Americ ...

soul music
genre during the 1950s by combining
blues Blues is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. ...

blues
,
jazz Jazz is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. ...
,
rhythm and blues Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B or R'n'B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urb ...
, and
gospel Gospel originally meant the Christian message ("the gospel#REDIRECT The gospel In Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Te ...
styles into the music he recorded for Atlantic. He contributed to the integration of
country music Country (also called country and western) is a genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by ...

country music
, rhythm and blues, and
pop music Pop is a genre of popular music that originated in its modern form during the mid-1950s in the United States and the United Kingdom. The terms ''popular music'' and ''pop music'' are often used interchangeably, although the former describes all m ...
during the 1960s with his crossover success on
ABC Records ABC Records was an American record label founded in New York City New York City (NYC), often simply called New York, is the List of United States cities by population, most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2019 populat ...
, notably with his two '' Modern Sounds'' albums. While he was with ABC, Charles became one of the first black musicians to be granted artistic control by a mainstream record company. Charles's 1960 hit "
Georgia On My Mind "Georgia on My Mind" is a 1930 song written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell and first recorded that year by Hoagy Carmichael. It has often been associated with Ray Charles Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004) w ...
" was the first of his three career No. 1 hits on the ''Billboard'' Hot 100. His 1962 album ''
Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music ''Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music'' is a studio album packaged in book form, like a photograph album An album is a collection of audio recordings issued as a collection on compact disc (CD), Phonograph record, vinyl, audio tape, ...
'' became his first album to top the ''Billboard'' 200. Charles had multiple singles reach the
Top 40 In the music industry The music industry consists of the companies and independent artists that earn money by creating new songs and pieces and arranging live concerts and shows, audio and video recordings, compositions and sheet music, and ...
on various ''Billboard'' charts: 44 on the
US R&B The Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs record chart, chart ranks the most popular Contemporary R&B, R&B and Hip hop music, hip hop songs in the United States and is published weekly by ''Billboard (magazine), Billboard''. Rankings are based on a measure of radi ...
singles chart, 11 on the
Hot 100 The ''Billboard'' Hot 100 is the music industry The music industry consists of the individuals and organizations that earn money by Musical composition, writing songs and musical compositions, creating and selling Sound recording and repr ...
singles chart, 2 on the
Hot Country Hot Country is a 24-hour music format produced by Westwood One Westwood One is an American radio network There are two types of radio network currently in use around the world: the one-to-many (simplex communication) broadcast network commonly ...
singles charts. Charles cited
Nat King Cole Nathaniel Adams Coles (March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965), known professionally as Nat King Cole, was an American singer, jazz pianist, and actor. He recorded over 100 songs that became hits on the pop charts. His trio was the model for sm ...

Nat King Cole
as a primary influence, but his music was also influenced by
Louis Jordan Louis Thomas Jordan (July 8, 1908 – February 4, 1975) was an American saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and bandleader who was popular from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. Known as "Honorific nicknames in popular music, The King ...
and Charles Brown. He had a lifelong friendship and occasional partnership with
Quincy Jones Quincy Delight Jones Jr. (born March 14, 1933) is an American record producer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, composer, arranger, and film and television producer. His career spans 70 years in the entertainment industry with a record 80 Gra ...

Quincy Jones
.
Frank Sinatra Francis Albert Sinatra (; December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was an American singer and actor who is generally viewed as one of the greatest musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, havi ...

Frank Sinatra
called Ray Charles "the only true genius in show business," although Charles downplayed this notion.
Billy Joel William Martin Joel (born May 9, 1949) is an American musician, singer-songwriter, and composer. Commonly nicknamed the "Piano Man" after his first major hit and signature song of the same name as well as the similarly named Piano Man (Billy Joe ...
said, "This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than
Elvis Presley Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was an American singer and actor. Dubbed the "Honorific nicknames in popular music, King of Rock and Roll", he is regarded as Cultural impact of Elvis Presley, one of the most si ...

Elvis Presley
". For his musical contributions, Charles received the
Kennedy Center Honors and First Lady Laura Bush Laura Lane Welch Bush (''née__NOTOC__ A birth name is the name of the person given upon their birth. The term may be applied to the surname, the given name or to the entire name. Where births are required to b ...
, the
National Medal of Arts The National Medal of Arts is an award and title created by the United States Congress The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States and consists of the House o ...
, and the
Polar Music Prize The Polar Music Prize is a Swedish international award founded in 1989 by Stig Anderson, best known as the manager of the Swedish band ABBA, with a donation to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. The award is annually given to one contemporary ...
. He was one of the inaugural inductees at the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (RRHOF), sometimes simply referred to as the Rock Hall, is a museum A museum ( ; plural museums or, rarely, musea) is an institution that Preservation (library and archival science), cares for (conserves) a ...

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
, in 1986. He has won 18 Grammy Awards (5 posthumously), the
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award is a special Grammy Award The Grammy Award (stylized as GRAMMY, originally called Gramophone Award), or just Grammy, is an award presented by the Recording Academy to recognize achievement in the music in ...
in 1987, and 10 of his recordings have been inducted into the
Grammy Hall of Fame The Grammy Hall of Fame is a hall of fame A hall, wall, or walk of fame is a list of individuals, achievements, or animals, usually chosen by a group of electors, to mark their fame Fame is the quality of being well-known and in the public eye. ...
. ''
Rolling Stone ''Rolling Stone'' is an American monthly magazine that focuses on music, politics, and popular culture. It was founded in San Francisco, California San Francisco (/Help:IPA/English, ˌsæn fɹənˈsɪskoʊ/; Spanish language, Spanish f ...
'' ranked Charles No. 10 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and No. 2 on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. In 2022, he will be inducted into the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame.


Early life and education

Ray Charles Robinson was born on September 23, 1930 in
Albany, Georgia Albany ( ) is a city in the U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. ...
. he was the son of Bailey Robinson, a laborer, and Aretha (or Reatha) Robinson (nee Williams), a laundress, of
Greenville, Florida Greenville is a town in Madison County, Florida, United States. The population was 843 at the 2010 census. Geography Greenville is located at (30.467, -83.635). According to the United States Census Bureau The United States Census Bureau ( ...
. During Aretha's childhood, her mother died and her father, a man Bailey worked with, could not keep her. The Robinson family — Bailey, his wife Mary Jane and his mother — informally adopted her and Aretha took the surname Robinson. A few years later 15-year-old Aretha became pregnant by Bailey. During the ensuing scandal, she left Greenville late in the summer of 1930 to be with family in
Albany, Georgia Albany ( ) is a city in the U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. ...
. After the birth of Ray Charles, she and her baby returned to Greenville. Aretha and Bailey's wife, who had lost a son, then shared in Charles's upbringing. His father abandoned the family, left Greenville, and married another woman elsewhere. By his first birthday Charles had a brother, George. In later years, no one could remember who George's father was. Charles was deeply devoted to his mother and later recalled, despite her poor health and adversity, her perseverance, self-sufficiency, and pride were guiding lights in his life. In his early years, Charles showed an interest in mechanical objects and would often watch his neighbors working on their cars and farm machinery. His musical curiosity was sparked at Wylie Pitman's Red Wing Cafe, at the age of three, when Pitman played
boogie woogie Boogie-woogie is a music genre of blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in Plantation-era songs, African-American work songs, ...
on an old
upright piano The piano is an , and in which the strings are struck by wooden hammers that are coated with a softer material (modern hammers are covered with dense wool felt; some early pianos used leather). It is played using a , which is a row of keys ( ...

upright piano
; Pitman subsequently taught Charles how to play the piano. Charles and his mother were always welcome at the Red Wing Cafe and even lived there when they were in financial distress. Pitman would also care for Ray's younger brother George, to take some of the burden off their mother. George drowned in his mother's laundry tub when he was four years old. Charles started to lose his sight at the age of four or five,Leung, Rebecca (October 14, 2004)
"The Genius of Ray Charles: ''60 Minutes'' Looks Back at the Life and Loves of a True Original"
(about a 1986 segment on Charles from ''
60 Minutes ''60 Minutes'' is an American television news magazine '' 2512'', a monthly news magazine published in Réunion. A news magazine is a typed, printed, and published magazine, radio or television program, usually published weekly, consisting ...
'').
and was blind by the age of seven, likely as a result of
glaucoma Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which result in damage to the optic nerve The optic nerve, also known as cranial nerve II, or simply as CN II, is a paired cranial nerve Cranial nerves are the nerve A nerve is an enclosed, cable-li ...

glaucoma
. Destitute, uneducated, and mourning the loss of her younger son, Aretha Robinson used her connections in the local community to find a school that would accept a blind African-American pupil. Despite his initial protest, Charles attended school at the in St. Augustine from 1937 to 1945. Charles further developed his musical talent at school and was taught to play the
classical Classical may refer to: European antiquity *Classical antiquity, a period of history from roughly the 7th or 8th century B.C.E. to the 5th century C.E. centered on the Mediterranean Sea *Classical architecture, architecture derived from Greek and ...

classical
piano music of J.S. Bach,
Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 17565 December 1791), baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical period. Born in Salzburg, in the Holy Roman Empire Th ...

Mozart
and . His teacher, Mrs. Lawrence, taught him how to use
braille music Braille music is a braille code that allows music to be notated using braille Braille ( ; Braille: ⠃⠗⠇; ) is a tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired. It is traditionally written with embossed paper. Braille users ...

braille music
, a difficult process that requires learning the left hand movements by reading braille with the right hand and learning the right hand movements by reading braille with the left hand, and then combining the two parts. Ray Charles's mother died in the spring of 1945, when he was 14. Her death came as a shock to him; he later said the deaths of his brother and mother were "the two great tragedies" of his life. Charles decided not to return to school after the funeral.


Career


1945–1952: Florida, Los Angeles, and Seattle

After leaving school, Charles moved to
Jacksonville Jacksonville is a city located on the Atlantic coast of Florida, the most populous city in the state, and is the List of United States cities by area, largest city by area in the contiguous United States as of 2020. It is the county seat, seat o ...
to live with Charles Wayne Powell, who had been friends with his late mother. He played the piano for bands at the Ritz Theatre in
LaVilla LaVilla is a historic African American neighborhood A neighbourhood (British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spok ...
for over a year, earning $4 a night (US$ in dollars). He joined Local 632 of the musicians' union, in the hope that it would help him get work, and was able to use the union hall's piano, since he did not have one at home, and where he learned piano licks from copying the other players. He started to build a reputation as a talented musician in Jacksonville, but the jobs did not come fast enough for him to construct a strong identity, so, at age 16, he moved to
Orlando Orlando () is a city in the U.S. state of Florida and is the county seat of Orange County, Florida, Orange County. In Central Florida, it is the center of the Greater Orlando, Orlando metropolitan area, which had a population of 2,509,831, accor ...
, where he lived in borderline poverty and went without food for days. It was difficult for musicians to find work, as since
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved —including all of the great powers—forming two opposing s: the and the . In a total war directly involving m ...
had ended there were no "G.I. Joes" left to entertain. Charles eventually started to write arrangements for a pop music band, and in the summer of 1947 he unsuccessfully auditioned to play piano for
Lucky Millinder Lucius Venable "Lucky" Millinder (August 8, 1910 – September 28, 1966) was an American rhythm-and-blues and swing bandleader. Although he could not read or write music, did not play an instrument and rarely sang, his showmanship and musical ta ...
and his sixteen-piece band. In 1947, Charles moved to
Tampa Tampa () is a major city on the Gulf Coast of the United States, Gulf Coast of the U.S. state of Florida. The city's borders include the north shore of Tampa Bay and the east shore of Old Tampa Bay. Tampa is the largest city in the Tampa Bay ar ...
, where he had two jobs, one as a pianist for Charles Brantley's Honey Dippers. In his early career, he modeled himself on
Nat King Cole Nathaniel Adams Coles (March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965), known professionally as Nat King Cole, was an American singer, jazz pianist, and actor. He recorded over 100 songs that became hits on the pop charts. His trio was the model for sm ...

Nat King Cole
. His first four recordings—"Wondering and Wondering", "Walking and Talking", "Why Did You Go?" and "I Found My Baby There"—were allegedly made in Tampa, although some discographies claim he recorded them in Miami in 1951 or Los Angeles in 1952. Charles had always played piano for other people, but he was keen to have his own band. He decided to leave Florida for a large city, and, considering Chicago and New York City too big, followed his friend Gossie McKee to
Seattle Seattle ( ) is a seaport File:PorticcioloCedas.jpg, The Porticciolo del Cedas port in Barcola near Trieste, a small local port A port is a maritime law, maritime facility which may comprise one or more Wharf, wharves where shi ...

Seattle
, Washington, in March 1948, knowing that the biggest radio hits came from northern cities. Here he met and befriended, under the tutelage of
Robert Blackwell Robert Alexander "Bumps" Blackwell (May 23, 1918 – March 9, 1985) was an United States, American bandleader, songwriter, arrangement, arranger, and record producer, best known for his work overseeing the early hit record, hits of Little R ...
, a 15-year-old
Quincy Jones Quincy Delight Jones Jr. (born March 14, 1933) is an American record producer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, composer, arranger, and film and television producer. His career spans 70 years in the entertainment industry with a record 80 Gra ...

Quincy Jones
. With Charles on piano, McKee on guitar and Milton Garrett on bass, the McSon trio (named for ''Mc''Kee and Robin''son'') started playing the one-to-five A.M. shift at the Rocking Chair. Publicity photos of the trio are some of the earliest known photographs of Charles. In April 1949, he and his band recorded " Confession Blues", which became his first national hit, soaring to the second spot on the Billboard R&B chart. While still working at the Rocking Chair, he also arranged songs for other artists, including
Cole Porter Cole Albert Porter (June 9, 1891 – October 15, 1964) was an American composer and songwriter. Many of his songs became standards Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for ...
's "Ghost of a Chance" and
Dizzy Gillespie John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie (; October 21, 1917 – January 6, 1993) was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, educator and singer. He was a trumpet virtuoso and improvisation, improviser, building on the virtuoso style of Roy Eldri ...
's "Emanon". After the success of his first two singles, Charles moved to Los Angeles in 1950, and spent the next few years touring with the blues musician
Lowell Fulson Lowell Fulson (March 31, 1921March 7, 1999) was an American blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in Plantation-era songs, Af ...

Lowell Fulson
as his musical director. In 1950, his performance in a Miami hotel impressed
Henry Stone Henry Stone (June 3, 1921 – August 7, 2014), born Henry David Epstein, was an American record company executive and producer whose career spanned the era from R&B in the early 1950s through the disco Disco is a music genre, genre of dance ...
, who went on to record a Ray Charles Rockin' record (which never became particularly popular). During his stay in Miami, Charles was required to stay in the
segregatedSegregation may refer to: Separation of people * Geographical segregation, rates of two or more populations which are not homogenous throughout a defined space *Educational segegration * Housing segregation * Racial segregation, separation of huma ...
but thriving black community of Overtown. Stone later helped
Jerry Wexler Gerald "Jerry" Wexler (January 10, 1917 – August 15, 2008) was a music journalist turned music producer, and was one of the main record industry players behind music from the 1950s through the 1980s. He coined the term " rhythm and blues", ...
find Charles in
St. Petersburg Saint Petersburg ( rus, links=no, Санкт-Петербург, a=Ru-Sankt Peterburg Leningrad Petrograd Piter.ogg, r=Sankt-Peterburg, p=ˈsankt pʲɪtʲɪrˈburk), formerly known as Petrograd (1914–1924) and later Leningrad (1924–1991), ...
. After signing with
Swing Time Records Swing Time Records was a United States-based record label active in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The label was founded by Jack Lauderdale in 1947 as Down Beat Records and was headquartered in Los Angeles, California. In approximately October 1 ...
, he recorded two more R&B hits under the name Ray Charles: "Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand" (1951), which reached No. 5, and "Kissa Me Baby" (1952), which reached No. 8. Swing Time folded the following year, and
Ahmet Ertegun Ahmet Ertegun (, Turkish spelling: Ahmet Ertegün (); – December 14, 2006) was a Turkish-American businessman, songwriter and philanthropist. Ertegun was the co-founder and president of Atlantic Records. He discovered and championed many lead ...
signed him to Atlantic. In addition to being a musician, Charles was also a record producer, producing
Guitar Slim Eddie Jones (December 10, 1926 – February 7, 1959), better known as Guitar Slim, was a New Orleans blues guitarist in the 1940s and 1950s, best known for the million-selling song " The Things That I Used to Do", produced by Johnny Vincent for S ...
's number 1 hit, "
The Things That I Used to Do "The Things That I Used to Do" is a blues standard Blues standards are blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in Plantation-er ...
."


1952–1959: Atlantic Records

In June 1952, Atlantic bought Charles's contract for $2,500 (US$ in dollars). His first recording session for Atlantic ("The Midnight Hour"/"Roll with My Baby") took place in September 1952, although his last Swing Time release ("Misery in My Heart"/"The Snow Is Falling") would not appear until February 1953. In 1953, " Mess Around" became his first small hit for Atlantic; during the next year he had hits with " It Should've Been Me" and "Don't You Know". He also recorded the songs "Midnight Hour" and "Sinner's Prayer". Late in 1954, Charles recorded " I've Got a Woman". The lyrics were written by bandleader Renald Richard. Charles claimed the composition. They later admitted that the song went back to the Southern Tones' "It Must Be Jesus" (1954). It became one of his most notable hits, reaching No. 2 on the R&B chart. "I've Got a Woman" combined gospel, jazz, and blues. In 1955, he had hits with " This Little Girl of Mine" and " A Fool for You". In upcoming years, he scored with "Drown in My Own Tears" and "Hallelujah I Love Her So". In 1959, "
What'd I Say "What'd I Say" (or "What I Say") is an American rhythm and blues Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record co ...
" reached No. 6 on the ''Billboard'' Pop chart and No. 1 on the ''Billboard'' R&B chart. He also recorded jazz, such as ''
The Great Ray Charles ''The Great Ray Charles'' is Ray Charles' second studio album for Atlantic Records, released in 1957. It is an instrumental jazz album. Later CD re-issues often include as a bonus, six of eight tracks from ''The Genius After Hours''. The original c ...
'' (1957) and worked with vibraphonist
Milt Jackson Milton "Bags" Jackson (January 1, 1923 – October 9, 1999) was an American jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, ...

Milt Jackson
, releasing '' Soul Brothers'' in 1958 and '' Soul Meeting'' in 1961. By 1958, he was not only headlining black venues such as the
Apollo Theater The Apollo Theater is a music hall located at 253 West 125th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (Seventh Avenue) and Frederick Douglass Boulevard (Eighth Avenue) in Harlem Harlem is a neighborhood in Upper Manhattan, New Yo ...
in New York, but also bigger venues such as
Carnegie Hall Carnegie Hall ( ); is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan Midtown Manhattan is the central portion of the New York City borough New York City New York City (NYC), often simply called New York, is the List of United States citi ...

Carnegie Hall
and the
Newport Jazz Festival Newport Jazz Festival is held every summer in Newport, Rhode Island. Elaine Lorillard established the festival in 1954, and she and husband Louis Lorillard financed it for many years. They hired George Wein to organize the first festival. Most of ...
where his first live album was recorded in 1958. He hired a female singing group,
the Cookies The Cookies were an American R&B Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings m ...
, and renamed them
the Raelettes The Raelettes (or occasionally The Raelets or The Rayletts) were an American girl group formed in 1958 to provide Vocal music, backing vocals for Ray Charles. They were reformed from the group The Cookies. Between 1966 and 1973, the Raelettes reco ...
. In 1958, Charles and the Raelettes performed for the famed
Cavalcade of JazzThe Cavalcade of Jazz was the first large outdoor jazz entertainment event of its kind produced by an African American, Leon Hefflin, Sr. The event was held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, Lane Field in San Diego and the last one at the Shrine Aud ...
concert produced by Leon Hefflin Sr. held at the
Shrine Auditorium The Shrine Auditorium is a landmark large-event venue in Los Angeles, California. It is also the headquarters of the Al Malaikah Temple, a division of the Shriners. It was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (No. 139) in 1975. His ...

Shrine Auditorium
on August 3. The other headliners were
Little Willie John William Edward "Little Willie" John (November 15, 1937 – May 26, 1968) was an American R&B Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s. The term was orig ...
,
Sam Cooke Samuel Cook (January 22, 1931 – December 11, 1964), known professionally as Sam Cooke, was an American singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur. Considered to be a pioneer and one of the most influential soul In many religious, philosoph ...

Sam Cooke
,
Ernie Freeman Ernest Aaron Freeman (August 16, 1922 – May 16, 1981) was an American pianist, organist, bandleader, and arranger. He was responsible for arranging many successful rhythm and blues Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B, is a genre ...
, and
Bo RhamboEwell Goldyn Rhambo, known as Bo Rhambo, (born September 21, 1923, Austin Austin (, ) is the capital city of the U.S. state of Texas, as well as the county seat, seat and largest city of Travis County, Texas, Travis County, with portions exte ...
.
Sammy Davis Jr. Samuel George Davis Jr. (December 8, 1925 – May 16, 1990) was an American singer, dancer, actor, vaudevillian and comedian whom critic Randy Blaser called "the greatest entertainer ever to grace a stage in these United States". At age th ...
was there to crown the winner of the Miss Cavalcade of Jazz beauty contest. The event featured the top four prominent disc jockeys of Los Angeles.


1959–1971: Crossover success

Charles reached the pinnacle of his success at Atlantic with the release of "
What'd I Say "What'd I Say" (or "What I Say") is an American rhythm and blues Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African-American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record co ...
", which combined gospel, jazz, blues and Latin music. Charles said he wrote it spontaneously while he was performing in clubs with his band. Despite some radio stations banning the song because of its sexually suggestive lyrics, the song became his first top ten pop record. Later in 1959, he released his first country song (a cover of
Hank Snow Clarence Eugene "Hank" Snow (May 9, 1914 – December 20, 1999) was a Canadian-American country music Country (also called country and western) is a genre of popular music that originated with blues, church music such as Southern gospel and sp ...
's " I'm Movin' On") and recorded three more albums for the label: a jazz record ('' The Genius After Hours'', 1961); a blues record ('' The Genius Sings the Blues'', 1961); and a big band record (''
The Genius of Ray Charles ''The Genius of Ray Charles'' is a 1959 Ray Charles album, released in October by Atlantic Records, the seventh album since the debut ''Ray Charles (album), Ray Charles'' in 1957. The album consists of Swing music#1950s-1960s: Swingin' pop, swinging ...
'', 1959) which was his first Top 40 album, peaking at No. 17. His contract with Atlantic expired in 1959, and several big labels offered him record deals. Choosing not to renegotiate his contract with Atlantic, he signed with
ABC-Paramount ABC Records was an American record label founded in New York City New York City (NYC), often simply called New York, is the List of United States cities by population, most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2019 populat ...
in November 1959.Ray Charles, "I Can't Stop Loving You"
Kalamu.com. Retrieved August 13, 2008.
He obtained a more liberal contract than other artists had at the time, with ABC offering him a $50,000 (US$ in dollars) annual advance, higher royalties than before and eventual ownership of his
master tape Mastering, a form of audio post production, is the process of preparing and transferring recorded audio from a source containing the Audio mixing (recorded music), final mix to a data storage device (the master), the source from which all copi ...
s—a very valuable and lucrative deal at the time. During his Atlantic years, Charles had been hailed for his inventive compositions, but by the time of the release of the largely instrumental jazz album ''
Genius + Soul = Jazz ''Genius + Soul = Jazz'' is a 1961 album by Ray Charles featuring big band arrangements by Quincy Jones and Ralph Burns. Charles is accompanied by two groups drawn from members of The Count Basie Band and from the ranks of top New York session pla ...
'' (1960) for ABC's subsidiary label
Impulse! Impulse! Records is an American jazz record company and record label, label established by Creed Taylor in 1960. John Coltrane was among Impulse!'s earliest signings. Thanks to consistent sales and positive critiques of his recordings, the label ca ...
, he had given up on writing to follow his eclectic impulses as an interpreter. With "
Georgia on My Mind "Georgia on My Mind" is a 1930 song written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell and first recorded that year by Hoagy Carmichael. It has often been associated with Ray Charles, a native of the Georgia (U.S. state), U.S. state of Georgia, who ...
", his first hit single for ABC-Paramount in 1960, Charles received national acclaim and four
Grammy Award The Grammy Award (stylized as GRAMMY, originally called Gramophone Award), or just Grammy, is an award presented by the Recording Academy, the US Recording Academy to recognize "Outstanding Achievement in the music industry" of the United State ...
s, including two for "Georgia on My Mind" ( Best Vocal Performance Single Record or Track, Male, and Best Performance by a Pop Single Artist). Written by
Stuart GorrellStuart Graham Steven Gorrell (September 17, 1901 – August 10, 1963) is best known for writing the lyrics for the song "Georgia on My Mind "Georgia on My Mind" is a 1930 song written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell and first recorded tha ...
and
Hoagy Carmichael Hoagland Howard Carmichael (November 22, 1899 – December 27, 1981) was an American musician, composer, songwriter, actor and lawyer. Carmichael was one of the most successful Tin Pan Alley Tin Pan Alley is the name given to a collection of ...
, the song was Charles's first work with
Sid Feller Sidney "Sid" Feller (December 24, 1916 – February 16, 2006) was an American Conductor (music), conductor and arranger, best known for his work with Ray Charles. He worked with Charles on hundreds of songs including ''Georgia on My Mind'' and wor ...
, who produced, arranged and conducted the recording. Charles earned another Grammy for the follow-up "Hit the Road Jack", written by R&B singer Percy Mayfield. By late 1961, Charles had expanded his small road ensemble to a big band, partly as a response to increasing royalties and touring fees, becoming one of the few black artists to cross over into mainstream pop with such a level of creative control.Cooper (1998), pp. 20–22. This success, however, came to a momentary halt during a concert tour in November 1961, when a police search of Charles's hotel room in Indianapolis, Indiana, led to the discovery of heroin in the medicine cabinet. The case was eventually dropped, as the search lacked a proper Warrant (law), warrant by the police, and Charles soon returned to music. In the early 1960s, on the way from Louisiana to Oklahoma City, Charles faced a near-death experience when the pilot of his plane lost visibility, as snow and his failure to use the defroster caused the windshield of the plane to become completely covered in ice. The pilot made a few circles in the air before he was finally able to see through a small part of the windshield and land the plane. Charles placed a spiritual interpretation on the event, claiming that "something or someone which instruments cannot detect" was responsible for creating the small opening in the ice on the windshield which enabled the pilot to land the plane safely. The 1962 album ''Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music'' and its sequel, ''Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music Volume Two, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 2'', helped to bring
country music Country (also called country and western) is a genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by ...

country music
into the musical mainstream. Charles's version of the Don Gibson song "I Can't Stop Loving You" topped the Pop chart for five weeks, stayed at No. 1 on the R&B chart for ten weeks, and gave him his only number-one record in the UK. In 1962, he founded his record label, Tangerine Records (1963), Tangerine, which ABC-Paramount promoted and distributed. He had major pop hits in 1963 with "Busted (Harlan Howard song), Busted" (US No. 4) and "Take These Chains from My Heart" (US No. 8). In 1964, Margie Hendrix was kicked out of the Raelettes after a big argument. In 1964, Charles's career was halted once more after he was arrested for a third time for possession of heroin. He agreed to go to rehab to avoid jail time and eventually kicked his habit at a clinic in Los Angeles. After spending a year on parole, Charles reappeared in the charts in 1966 with a series of hits composed with Ashford & Simpson and Jo Armstead, including the dance number "I Don't Need No Doctor" and "Let's Go Get Stoned (R&B song), Let's Go Get Stoned", which became his first number-one R&B hit in several years. His cover version of "Crying Time", originally recorded by country singer Buck Owens, reached No. 6 on the pop chart and helped Charles win a Grammy Award the following March. In 1967, he had a top-twenty hit with another ballad, "Here We Go Again (Ray Charles song), Here We Go Again".


1971–1983: Commercial decline

Charles's renewed chart success, however, proved to be short lived, and by the 1970s his music was rarely played on radio stations. The rise of psychedelic rock and harder forms of rock and R&B music had reduced Charles's radio appeal, as did his choosing to record pop standards and covers of contemporary rock and soul hits, since his earnings from owning his masters had taken away the motivation to write new material. Charles nonetheless continued to have an active recording career. Most of his recordings between 1968 and 1973 evoked strong reactions: either adored or panned by fans and critics alike. His recordings during this period, especially 1972's ''A Message from the People'', moved toward the progressive soul sound popular at the time. ''A Message from the People'' included his unique gospel-influenced version of "America the Beautiful" and a number of protest songs about poverty and civil rights. Charles was often criticized for his version of "America the Beautiful" because it was very drastically changed from the song's original version. On July 14, 1973, Margie Hendrix, the mother of Ray's son Charles Wayne Hendrix, died at 38 years old from a heroin overdose, which led to Ray caring for the child. In 1974, Charles left ABC Records and recorded several albums on his own label, Crossover Records. A 1975 recording of Stevie Wonder's hit "Living for the City" later helped Charles win another Grammy. In 1977, he reunited with Ahmet Ertegun and re-signed to Atlantic Records, for which he recorded the album ''True to Life (Ray Charles album), True to Life'', remaining with his old label until 1980. However, the label had now begun to focus on rock acts, and some of their prominent soul artists, such as Aretha Franklin, were starting to be neglected. In November 1977 he appeared as the host of the NBC television show ''Saturday Night Live''. In April 1979, his version of "Georgia on My Mind" was proclaimed the state song of Georgia, and an emotional Charles performed the song on the floor of the state legislature. In 1980 Charles performed in the musical film ''The Blues Brothers (film), The Blues Brothers''. Although he had notably supported the American Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s, Charles was criticized for performing at the Sun City, North West, Sun City resort in South Africa in 1981, during an international boycott protesting that country's apartheid policy. He later defended his choice of performing there after insisting that the audience of black and white fans would integrate while he was there.


1983–2004: Later years

In 1983, Charles signed a contract with Columbia Records, Columbia. He recorded a string of country albums and had hit singles in duets with singers such as George Jones, Chet Atkins, B. J. Thomas, Mickey Gilley, Hank Williams Jr., Dee Dee Bridgewater ("Precious Thing") and his longtime friend Willie Nelson, with whom he recorded "Seven Spanish Angels". In 1985, Charles participated in the musical recording and video "We Are the World", a charity single recorded by the supergroup United Support of Artists (USA) for Africa. Before the release of his first album for Warner, ''Would You Believe'', Charles made a return to the R&B charts with a cover of the The Brothers Johnson, Brothers Johnson's "I'll Be Good to You", a duet with his lifelong friend Quincy Jones and the singer Chaka Khan, which hit number one on the R&B chart in 1990 and won Charles and Khan a Grammy for their duet. Prior to this, Charles returned to the pop charts with "Baby Grand", a duet with the singer
Billy Joel William Martin Joel (born May 9, 1949) is an American musician, singer-songwriter, and composer. Commonly nicknamed the "Piano Man" after his first major hit and signature song of the same name as well as the similarly named Piano Man (Billy Joe ...
. In 1989, he recorded a cover of the Southern All Stars' "Itoshi no Ellie" for a Japanese TV advertisement for the Suntory brand, releasing it in Japan as "Ellie My Love", where it reached No.3 on its Oricon chart. In the same year he was a special guest at the Arena di Verona during the tour promoting ''Oro Incenso & Birra'' of the Italian singer Zucchero Fornaciari. In 2001–02, Charles appeared in commercials for the New Jersey Lottery to promote its campaign "For every dream, there's a jackpot". In 2003, he headlined the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C., attended by President George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. Also in 2003, Charles presented Van Morrison with Morrison's award upon being inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the two sang Morrison's song "Crazy Love (Van Morrison song), Crazy Love" (the performance appears on Morrison's 2007 album ''The Best of Van Morrison Volume 3''). In 2003, Charles performed "Georgia on My Mind" and "America the Beautiful" at a televised annual banquet of electronic media journalists held in Washington, D.C. His final public appearance was on April 30, 2004, at the dedication of his music studio as a historic landmark in Los Angeles.


Legacy


Influence on music industry

Charles possessed one of the most recognizable voices in American music. In the words of musicologist Henry Pleasants (music critic), Henry Pleasants: Pleasants continues, "Ray Charles is usually described as a baritone, and his speaking voice would suggest as much, as would the difficulty he experiences in reaching and sustaining the baritone's high E and F in a popular ballad. But the voice undergoes some sort of transfiguration under stress, and in music of gospel or blues character he can and does sing for measures on end in the high tenor range of A, B flat, B, C and even C sharp and D, sometimes in full voice, sometimes in an ecstatic head voice, sometimes in falsetto. In falsetto he continues up to E and F above high C. On one extraordinary record, 'I'm Going Down to the River'...he hits an incredible B flat...giving him an overall range, including the falsetto extension, of at least three octaves." His style and success in the genres of rhythm and blues and jazz had an influence on a number of highly successful artists, including, as Jon Pareles has noted,
Elvis Presley Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was an American singer and actor. Dubbed the "Honorific nicknames in popular music, King of Rock and Roll", he is regarded as Cultural impact of Elvis Presley, one of the most si ...

Elvis Presley
, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, and
Billy Joel William Martin Joel (born May 9, 1949) is an American musician, singer-songwriter, and composer. Commonly nicknamed the "Piano Man" after his first major hit and signature song of the same name as well as the similarly named Piano Man (Billy Joe ...
. Other singers who have acknowledged Charles's influence on their own styles include James Booker, Steve Winwood, Richard Manuel, and Gregg Allman. According to Joe Levy, a music editor for ''Rolling Stone'', "The hit records he made for Atlantic in the mid-1950s mapped out everything that would happen to rock 'n' roll and soul music in the years that followed". Charles was also an inspiration to Pink Floyd member Roger Waters, who told the Turkish newspaper ''Hurriyet'': "I was about 15. In the middle of the night with friends, we were listening to jazz. It was "
Georgia on My Mind "Georgia on My Mind" is a 1930 song written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell and first recorded that year by Hoagy Carmichael. It has often been associated with Ray Charles, a native of the Georgia (U.S. state), U.S. state of Georgia, who ...
", Ray Charles's version. Then I thought 'One day, if I make some people feel only one-twentieth of what I am feeling now, it will be quite enough for me.'" ''Ray (film), Ray'', a biopic portraying his life and career between the mid-1930s and 1979, was released in October 2004, starring Jamie Foxx as Charles. Foxx won the 77th Academy Awards, 2005 Academy Award for Best Actor for the role.


Awards and honors

In 1975, Ray Charles was inducted into the Academy of Achievement, American Academy of Achievement and presented with the Golden Plate Award and the Academy of Achievement gold medal. In 1979, Charles was one of the first musicians born in the state to be inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. His version of "Georgia on My Mind" was also made the official state song of the state of Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia. In 1981, he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was one of the first inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at its inaugural ceremony, in 1986. He also received the
Kennedy Center Honors and First Lady Laura Bush Laura Lane Welch Bush (''née__NOTOC__ A birth name is the name of the person given upon their birth. The term may be applied to the surname, the given name or to the entire name. Where births are required to b ...
in 1986. Charles won 17
Grammy Award The Grammy Award (stylized as GRAMMY, originally called Gramophone Award), or just Grammy, is an award presented by the Recording Academy, the US Recording Academy to recognize "Outstanding Achievement in the music industry" of the United State ...
s from his 37 nominations. In 1987, he was awarded the
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award is a special Grammy Award The Grammy Award (stylized as GRAMMY, originally called Gramophone Award), or just Grammy, is an award presented by the Recording Academy to recognize achievement in the music in ...
. In 1991, he was inducted to the Rhythm & Blues Foundation and was presented with the UCLA Spring Sing The George and Ira Gershwin Award, George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement during the 1991 UCLA Spring Sing. In 1990, he was given an honorary doctorate of fine arts by the University of South Florida. In 1993, he was awarded the
National Medal of Arts The National Medal of Arts is an award and title created by the United States Congress The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States and consists of the House o ...
. In 1998 he was awarded the
Polar Music Prize The Polar Music Prize is a Swedish international award founded in 1989 by Stig Anderson, best known as the manager of the Swedish band ABBA, with a donation to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. The award is annually given to one contemporary ...
, together with Ravi Shankar, in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2004 he was inducted to the National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall of Fame. The Grammy Awards of 2005 were dedicated to Charles. In 2001, Morehouse College honored Charles with the Candle Award for Lifetime Achievement in Arts and Entertainment, and later that same year granted him an honorary doctor of humane letters. Charles donated $2 million to Morehouse "to fund, educate and inspire the next generation of musical pioneers." In 2003, Charles was awarded an honorary degree by Dillard University, and upon his death he endowed a professorship of African-American culinary history at the school, the first such chair in the nation. In 2010, a $20 million, facility named the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center and Music Academic Building, opened at Morehouse. The United States Postal Service issued a forever stamp honoring Charles, as part of its Musical Icons series, on September 23, 2013. In 2015, Charles was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame. In 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama said, "Ray Charles's version of "America the Beautiful" will always be in my view the most Patriotism, patriotic piece of music ever performed" In 2021, Charles was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the third African-American to be inducted after Charley Pride (2000) and Deford Bailey (2005). He was also the 13th person to be inducted into both the Country and Rock Halls of Fame.


Contribution to civil rights movement

On March 15, 1961, shortly after the release of the hit song "Georgia on My Mind" (1960), the
Albany, Georgia Albany ( ) is a city in the U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. ...
-born musician was scheduled to perform at a dance at Bell Auditorium in Augusta, Georgia, Augusta, but cancelled the show after learning from students of Paine College that the larger auditorium dance floor would be restricted to whites, while blacks would be obligated to sit in the Music Hall balcony. Charles left town immediately after letting the public know why he wouldn't be performing, but the promoter went on to sue Charles for breach of contract, and Charles was fined $757 in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta on June 14, 1962. The following year, Charles did perform at a desegregated Bell Auditorium concert together with his backup group
the Raelettes The Raelettes (or occasionally The Raelets or The Rayletts) were an American girl group formed in 1958 to provide Vocal music, backing vocals for Ray Charles. They were reformed from the group The Cookies. Between 1966 and 1973, the Raelettes reco ...
on October 23, 1963, as depicted in the 2004 film, ''Ray (film), Ray''. On December 7, 2007, Ray Charles Plaza was opened in Albany, Georgia, with a revolving, lighted bronze sculpture of Charles seated at a piano.


The Ray Charles Foundation

Founded in 1986, the Ray Charles Foundation maintains the mission statement of financially supporting institutions and organizations in the research of hearing disorders. Originally known as The Robinson Foundation for Hearing Disorders, it was renamed in 2006 and has provided financial donations to numerous institutions involved in hearing loss research and education. The purpose of the foundation has been "to administer funds for scientific, educational and charitable purposes; to encourage, promote and educate, through grants to institutions and organizations, as to the causes and cures for diseases and disabilities of the hearing impaired and to assist organizations and institutions in their social educational and academic advancement of programs for the youth, and carry on other charitable and educational activities associated with these goals as allowed by law". Recipients of donations include Benedict College, Morehouse College, and other universities. The foundation has taken action against donation recipients who do not use funds in accordance with its mission statement, such as the Albany State University, which was made to return a $3 million donation after not using the funds for over a decade. The foundation houses its executive offices at the historic RPM International Building, originally the home of Ray Charles Enterprises and now also home to the Ray Charles Memorial Library on the first floor, which was founded on September 23, 2010 (what would have been his 80th birthday). The library was founded to "provide an avenue for young children to experience music and art in a way that will inspire their creativity and imagination", and is not open to the public without reservation, as the main goal is to educate mass groups of underprivileged youth and provide art and history to those without access to such documents.


Loss of material

Ray Charles was among hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.


Personal life

Charles stated in his 1978 autobiography, ''Brother Ray: Ray Charles' Own Story'', that he became hooked on women after losing his virginity at 12 years old to a woman about 20. "Cigarettes and smack [heroin] are the two truly addictive habits I've known. You might add women," he said. "My obsession centers on women—did then [when young] and does now. I can't leave them alone," he added.


Relationships and children

Charles was married twice. His first marriage was less than a year, his second 22 years. Throughout his life Charles had many relationships with women with whom he fathered a dozen children. His marriage to Eileen Williams lasted from July 31, 1951, until 1952. He met his second wife Della Beatrice Howard Robinson (called "Bea" by Charles) in Texas in 1954. They married the following year on April 5, 1955. Their first child together, Ray Charles Robinson Jr., was born in 1955. Charles was not in town for the birth because he was playing a show in Texas. The couple had two more sons, David and Robert. They raised their children in View Park–Windsor Hills, California, View Park, California. Charles felt that his heroin addiction took a toll on Della during their marriage. Due to his drug addiction, extramarital affairs on tours and volatile behavior, the marriage deteriorated and they divorced after 22 years of marriage in 1977. Charles had a six-year-long affair with Margie Hendrix, one of the original Raelettes, and in 1959 they had a son, Charles Wayne. His affair with Mae Mosley Lyles resulted in another daughter, Renee, born in 1961. In 1963, by Sandra Jean Betts, Ray Charles had a daughter, Sheila Raye Charles, a singer and songwriter who died of breast cancer on June 15, 2017. In 1977, Charles had a child with his Parisian lover Arlette Kotchounian whom he met in 1967. His long-term girlfriend and partner at the time of his death was Norma Pinella. Charles fathered a total of 12 children with ten different women: * Evelyn Robinson, born in 1949 (daughter with Louise Flowers) * Ray Charles Robinson Jr., born May 25, 1955 (son with wife Della Bea Robinson) * David Robinson, born in 1958 (son with wife Della Bea Robinson) * Charles Wayne Hendricks, born on October 1, 1959 (son with Margie Hendricks, one of the Raelettes) * Robert Robinson, born in 1960 (son with wife Della Bea Robinson) * Renee Robinson, born in 1961 (daughter with Mae Mosely Lyles) * Sheila Robinson, born in 1963 (daughter with Sandra Jean Betts) * Reatha Butler, born in 1966 * Alexandra Bertrand, born in 1968 (daughter with Mary-Chantal Bertrand) * Vincent Kotchounian, born in 1977 (son with Arlette Kotchounian) * Robyn Moffett, born in 1978 (daughter with Gloria Moffett) * Ryan Corey Robinson den Bok, born in 1987 (son with Mary Anne den Bok) Charles held a family luncheon for his twelve children in 2002, ten of whom attended. He told them he was mortally ill and $500,000 had been placed in trusts for each of the children to be paid out over the next five years.


Drug abuse and legal problems

At 18, Charles first tried marijuana when he played in McSon Trio and was eager to try it as he thought it helped musicians create music and tap into their creativity. He later became addicted to heroin for seventeen years. Charles was first arrested in 1955, when he and his bandmates were caught backstage with loose marijuana and drug paraphernalia, including a burnt spoon, syringe, and needle. The arrest did not deter his drug use, which only escalated as he became more successful and made more money. In 1958, Charles was arrested on a Harlem street corner for possession of narcotics and equipment for administering heroin. Charles was arrested on a narcotics charge on November 14, 1961, while waiting in an Indiana hotel room before a performance. The detectives seized heroin, marijuana, and other items. Charles, then 31, said he had been a drug addict since the age of 16. The case was dismissed because of the manner in which the evidence was obtained, but Charles's situation did not improve until a few years later. On Halloween 1964, Charles was arrested for possession of heroin at Boston, Boston's Logan Airport. He decided to quit heroin and entered St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood, California, where he endured four days of cold turkey withdrawal. Following his self-imposed stay, he pleaded guilty to four narcotic charges. Prosecutors called for two years in prison and a hefty fine, but the judge listened to Dr. Hacker's account of Charles's determination to get off drugs and he was sent to McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. The judge offered to postpone the verdict for a year if Charles agreed to undergo regular examinations by government-appointed physicians. When Charles returned to court, he received a five-year suspended sentence, four years of probation, and a fine of $10,000. Charles responded to the saga of his drug use and reform with the songs "I Don't Need No Doctor" and "Let's Go Get Stoned" and the release of ''Crying Time'', his first album since kicking his heroin addiction in 1966.


Chess hobby

Charles enjoyed playing chess. As part of his therapy when he quit heroin, he met with psychiatrist , who taught him how to play chess, three times a week. He used a special board with raised squares and holes for the pieces. When questioned if people try to cheat against a blind man, he joked in reply, "You can't cheat in Chess... I'm gonna see that!" In a 1991 concert, he referred to Willie Nelson as "my chess partner". In 2002, he played and lost to the American Grandmaster (chess), grandmaster and former U.S. champion Larry Evans (chess grandmaster), Larry Evans.


Death

In 2003, Charles had successful hip replacement surgery and was planning to go back on tour, until he began suffering from other ailments. He died at his home in Beverly Hills, California, of complications resulting from liver failure, on June 10, 2004, at the age of 73. His funeral took place on June 18, 2004, at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles, with numerous musical figures in attendance. B.B. King, Glen Campbell, Stevie Wonder and Wynton Marsalis each played a tribute at the funeral. He was interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery. His final album, ''Genius Loves Company'', released two months after his death, consists of duets with admirers and contemporaries: B.B. King, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, James Taylor, Gladys Knight, Michael McDonald (musician), Michael McDonald, Natalie Cole, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Krall, Norah Jones and Johnny Mathis. The album won eight Grammy Awards, including Best Pop Vocal Album, Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals (for "Here We Go Again", with Norah Jones), and Best Gospel Performance (for "Heaven Help Us All", with Gladys Knight); he also received nods for his duets with Elton John and B.B. King. The album included a version of Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg's "Over the Rainbow", sung as a duet with Johnny Mathis, which was played at Charles' memorial service. The episode "School's Out: The Musical" from The Fairly OddParents was dedicated to his memory.


Discography

Charles' discography is highly complex and extensive. AllMusic has listed approximately 60 original albums and more than 200 compilation albums, while music essayist Robert Christgau noted the existence of more. At least 20 record labels have released near-identical compilations of Charles' pre-Atlantic Records tracks, while many of the mastering (audio), masters that Charles began to own after 1960 were not digitally reissued, leading the Atlantic sister label Rhino Entertainment to focus on rereleasing his mid-to-late 1950s music. Christgau has called Charles' discography a "monumental mess" and that "any map of his oeuvre must be personal and provisional".


Filmography


Film


Television


See also

* Album era * Progressive soul


Notes


References


External links


Ray Charles Wife
wiki *


Oral history video excerpts
at the National Visionary Leadership Project
Country Music Hall of Fame

Appearance at WFOY Radio building
* * * * * * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Charles, Ray Ray Charles, 1930 births 2004 deaths 20th-century African-American male singers 20th-century American keyboardists 20th-century American singers 20th-century jazz composers 20th-century organists ABC Records artists African-American country musicians African-American jazz composers African-American jazz musicians African-American jazz pianists African-American male singers African-American male singer-songwriters African-American pianists African-American rock musicians African-American rock singers American baritones American blues pianists American blues singers American contemporary R&B singers American country pianists American country singer-songwriters American gospel singers American jazz composers American jazz organists American jazz pianists American jazz singers American male jazz composers American male jazz musicians American male organists American male pop singers American male pianists American male singer-songwriters American pop keyboardists American pop pianists American pop rock singers American rhythm and blues keyboardists American rhythm and blues singers American rock pianists American soul keyboardists American soul singers Atlantic Records artists Blind musicians Blind people from the United States Burials at Inglewood Park Cemetery Columbia Records artists Country musicians from California Country musicians from Florida Country musicians from Georgia (U.S. state) Deaths from liver failure Grammy Award winners Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winners Jazz musicians from California Jazz musicians from Florida Kennedy Center honorees Liberty Records artists McLean Hospital patients Musicians from Albany, Georgia Musicians from Jacksonville, Florida People from Greenville, Florida People from View Park–Windsor Hills, California Rhythm and blues pianists Singers from Los Angeles Singer-songwriters from California Singer-songwriters from Florida Tangerine Records artists Singer-songwriters from Georgia (U.S. state)