Ray Charles
Ray Charles

Ray Charles Robinson Sr.[note 1] (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004) was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. He’s thought to be some of the iconic and influential singers ever, and he was also known as “The Genius”. Amongst mates and fellow musicians he most popular being referred to as “Brother Ray”.[3][4] Charles was blinded throughout childhood, probably attributable to glaucoma.[2]

Charles pioneered the soul music style in the course of the Fifties by combining blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, and gospel kinds into the music he recorded for Atlantic.[2][5][6] He contributed to the mixing of nation music, rhythm and blues, and pop music in the course of the Nineteen Sixties together with his crossover success on ABC Data, notably together with his two Fashionable Sounds albums.[7][8][9] Whereas he was with ABC, Charles turned one of many first black musicians to be granted inventive management by a mainstream report firm.[5]

Charles’s 1960 hit “Georgia On My Thoughts” was the primary of his three profession No. 1 hits on the Billboard Scorching 100. His 1962 album Fashionable Sounds In Nation And Western Music turned his first album to prime the Billboard 200.[10] Charles had a number of singles attain the High 40 on numerous Billboard charts: 44 on the US R&B singles chart, 11 on the Scorching 100 singles chart, 2 on the Scorching Nation singles charts.[11]

Charles cited Nat King Cole as a main affect, however his music was additionally influenced by Louis Jordan and Charles Brown.[12] He had a lifelong friendship and occasional partnership with Quincy Jones. Frank Sinatra referred to as Ray Charles “the one true genius in present enterprise,” though Charles downplayed this notion.[13] Billy Joel mentioned, “This may increasingly sound like sacrilege, however I believe Ray Charles was extra essential than Elvis Presley”.[14]

For his musical contributions, Charles obtained the Kennedy Heart Honors, the Nationwide Medal of Arts, and the Polar Music Prize. He was one of many inaugural inductees on the Rock and Roll Corridor of Fame, in 1986. He has received 18 Grammy Awards (5 posthumously),[10] the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987, and 10 of his recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Corridor of Fame.[10] Rolling Stone ranked Charles No. 10 on their checklist of the 100 Best Artists of All Time,[3] and No. 2 on their checklist of the 100 Best Singers of All Time.[15] In 2022, he was inducted into the Black Music & Leisure Stroll of Fame.[16]

Youth and training

Ray Charles Robinson was born on September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia.[note 1] he was the son of Bailey Robinson, a laborer, and Aretha (or Reatha) Robinson (nee Williams), a laundress, of Greenville, Florida.

Throughout Aretha’s childhood, her mom died. Her father couldn’t preserve her. Bailey, a person her father labored with, took her in. The Robinson household — Bailey, his spouse Mary Jane and his mom — informally adopted her and Aretha took the surname Robinson. A couple of years later 15-year-old Aretha turned pregnant by Bailey. Through the ensuing scandal, she left Greenville late in the summertime of 1930 to be with household in Albany, Georgia. After the delivery of Ray Charles, she and her child returned to Greenville. Aretha and Bailey’s spouse, who had misplaced a son, then shared in Charles’s upbringing. His father deserted the household, left Greenville, and married one other lady elsewhere. By his first birthday Charles had a brother, George. In later years, nobody might bear in mind who George’s father was.[12]

Charles was deeply dedicated to his mom and later recalled, regardless of her poor well being and adversity, her perseverance, self-sufficiency, and delight have been guiding lights in his life.

In his early years, Charles confirmed an curiosity in mechanical objects and would typically watch his neighbors engaged on their automobiles and farm equipment. His musical curiosity was sparked at Wylie Pitman’s Crimson Wing Cafe, on the age of three, when Pitman performed boogie woogie on an outdated upright piano; Pitman subsequently taught Charles the way to play the piano. Charles and his mom have been all the time welcome on the Crimson Wing Cafe and even lived there once they have been in monetary misery.[12] Pitman would additionally take care of Ray’s youthful brother George, to take a few of the burden off their mom. George unintentionally drowned in his mom’s laundry tub when he was 4 years outdated.[12][17]

Charles began to lose his sight on the age of 4[4] or 5,[18] and was blind by the age of seven, seemingly on account of glaucoma.[19] Destitute, uneducated, and mourning the lack of her youthful son, Aretha Robinson used her connections in the local people to discover a college that may settle for a blind African-American pupil. Regardless of his preliminary protest, Charles attended college on the Florida Faculty for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine from 1937 to 1945.[12]

Charles additional developed his musical expertise in school[19] and was taught to play the classical piano music of J.S. Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. His trainer, Mrs. Lawrence, taught him the way to use braille music, a tough course of that requires studying the left hand actions by studying braille with the appropriate hand and studying the appropriate hand actions by studying braille with the left hand, after which combining the 2 elements.

Ray Charles’s mom died within the spring of 1945, when he was 14. Her dying got here as a shock to him; he later mentioned the deaths of his brother and mom have been “the 2 nice tragedies” of his life. Charles determined to not return to highschool after the funeral.[12]


1945–1952: Florida, Los Angeles, and Seattle

After leaving college, Charles moved to Jacksonville to dwell with Charles Wayne Powell, who had been mates together with his late mom. He performed the piano for bands on the Ritz Theatre in LaVilla for over a 12 months,[20] incomes $4 an evening (US$39 in 2020 {dollars}[21]). He joined Native 632 of the musicians’ union, within the hope that it could assist him get work,[22] and was ready to make use of the union corridor’s piano, since he didn’t have one at residence, and the place he realized piano licks from copying the opposite gamers.[23] He began to construct a popularity as a proficient musician in Jacksonville, however the jobs didn’t come quick sufficient for him to assemble a robust identification, so, at age 16, he moved to Orlando, the place he lived in borderline poverty and went with out meals for days.[24] It was tough for musicians to seek out work, as since World Warfare II had ended there have been no “G.I. Joes” left to entertain. Charles ultimately began to jot down preparations for a pop music band, and in the summertime of 1947 he unsuccessfully auditioned to play piano for Fortunate Millinder and his sixteen-piece band.[25]

In 1947, Charles moved to Tampa, the place he had two jobs, one as a pianist for Charles Brantley’s Honey Dippers.[26]

In his early profession, he modeled himself on Nat King Cole. His first 4 recordings—”Questioning and Questioning”, “Strolling and Speaking”, “Why Did You Go?” and “I Discovered My Child There”—have been allegedly made in Tampa, though some discographies declare he recorded them in Miami in 1951 or Los Angeles in 1952.[25]

Charles had all the time performed piano for different folks, however he was eager to have his personal band. He determined to depart Florida for a big metropolis, and, contemplating Chicago and New York Metropolis too massive, adopted his pal Gossie McKee to Seattle, Washington, in March 1948, figuring out that the most important radio hits got here from northern cities.[25][27] Right here he met and befriended, below the tutelage of Robert Blackwell, a 15-year-old Quincy Jones.[28]

With Charles on piano, McKee on guitar and Milton Garrett on bass, the McSon trio (named for McKee and Robinson) began taking part in the one-to-five A.M. shift on the Rocking Chair.[29] Publicity images of the trio are a few of the earliest recognized images of Charles. In April 1949, he and his band recorded “Confession Blues”, which turned his first nationwide hit, hovering to the second spot on the Billboard R&B chart.[25] Whereas nonetheless working on the Rocking Chair, he additionally organized songs for different artists, together with Cole Porter’s “Ghost of a Probability” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Emanon”.[24] After the success of his first two singles, Charles moved to Los Angeles in 1950, and spent the subsequent few years touring with the blues musician Lowell Fulson as his musical director.[4]

In 1950, his efficiency in a Miami lodge impressed Henry Stone, who went on to report a Ray Charles Rockin’ report (which by no means turned significantly common). Throughout his keep in Miami, Charles was required to remain within the segregated however thriving black group of Overtown. Stone later helped Jerry Wexler discover Charles in St. Petersburg.[30]

After signing with Swing Time Data, he recorded two extra R&B hits below the identify Ray Charles: “Child, Let Me Maintain Your Hand” (1951), which reached No. 5, and “Kissa Me Child” (1952), which reached No. 8. Swing Time folded the next 12 months, and Ahmet Ertegun signed him to Atlantic.[19]

Along with being a musician, Charles was additionally a report producer, producing Guitar Slim’s #1 hit, “The Issues That I Used to Do”.

1952–1959: Atlantic Data

Charles in 1968

In June 1952, Atlantic purchased Charles’s contract for $2,500 (US$24,364 in 2020 {dollars}[21]).[31][32] His first recording session for Atlantic (“The Midnight Hour”/”Roll with My Child”) came about in September 1952, though his final Swing Time launch (“Distress in My Coronary heart”/”The Snow Is Falling”) wouldn’t seem till February 1953.

In 1953, “Mess Round” turned his first small hit for Atlantic; in the course of the subsequent 12 months he had hits with “It Ought to’ve Been Me” and “Do not You Know”.[32] He additionally recorded the songs “Midnight Hour” and “Sinner’s Prayer”.

Late in 1954, Charles recorded “I’ve Acquired a Girl”. The lyrics have been written by bandleader Renald Richard. Charles claimed the composition. They later admitted that the tune went again to the Southern Tones’ “It Should Be Jesus” (1954). It turned one in every of his most notable hits, reaching No. 2 on the R&B chart.[32] “I’ve Acquired a Girl” mixed gospel, jazz, and blues. In 1955, he had hits with “This Little Lady of Mine” and “A Idiot for You”. In upcoming years, he scored with “Drown in My Personal Tears” and “Hallelujah I Love Her So”. In 1959, “What’d I Say” reached No. 6 on the Billboard Pop chart and No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart.[11][32]

He additionally recorded jazz, akin to The Nice Ray Charles (1957) and labored with vibraphonist Milt Jackson, releasing Soul Brothers in 1958 and Soul Assembly in 1961. By 1958, he was not solely headlining black venues such because the Apollo Theater in New York, but additionally larger venues akin to Carnegie Corridor and the Newport Jazz Pageant the place his first dwell album was recorded in 1958. He employed a feminine singing group, the Cookies, and renamed them the Raelettes. In 1958, Charles and the Raelettes carried out for the famed Cavalcade of Jazz live performance produced by Leon Hefflin Sr. held on the Shrine Auditorium on August 3. The opposite headliners have been Little Willie John, Sam Cooke, Ernie Freeman, and Bo Rhambo. Sammy Davis Jr. was there to crown the winner of the Miss Cavalcade of Jazz magnificence contest. The occasion featured the highest 4 distinguished disc jockeys of Los Angeles.[33][34]

1959–1971: Crossover success

Charles reached the top of his success at Atlantic with the discharge of “What’d I Say”, which mixed gospel, jazz, blues and Latin music. Charles mentioned he wrote it spontaneously whereas he was performing in golf equipment together with his band. Regardless of some radio stations banning the tune due to its sexually suggestive lyrics, the tune turned his first prime ten pop report.[35]

Later in 1959, he launched his first nation tune (a canopy of Hank Snow’s “I am Movin’ On”) and recorded three extra albums for the label: a jazz report (The Genius After Hours, 1961); a blues report (The Genius Sings the Blues, 1961); and a giant band report (The Genius of Ray Charles, 1959) which was his first High 40 album, peaking at No. 17.[36]

His contract with Atlantic expired in 1959, and several other massive labels provided him report offers. Selecting to not renegotiate his contract with Atlantic, he signed with ABC-Paramount in November 1959.[37] He obtained a extra liberal contract than different artists had on the time, with ABC providing him a $50,000 (US$443,893 in 2020 {dollars}[21]) annual advance, greater royalties than earlier than and eventual possession of his grasp tapes—a really precious and profitable deal on the time.[38] Throughout his Atlantic years, Charles had been hailed for his ingenious compositions, however by the point of the discharge of the largely instrumental jazz album Genius + Soul = Jazz (1960) for ABC’s subsidiary label Impulse!, he had given up on writing to observe his eclectic impulses as an interpreter.[35]

With “Georgia on My Thoughts”, his first hit single for ABC-Paramount in 1960, Charles obtained nationwide acclaim and 4 Grammy Awards, together with two for “Georgia on My Thoughts” (Finest Vocal Efficiency Single Report or Observe, Male, and Finest Efficiency by a Pop Single Artist). Written by Stuart Gorrell and Hoagy Carmichael, the tune was Charles’s first work with Sid Feller, who produced, organized and carried out the recording.[35][39]

Charles in 1971

Charles earned one other Grammy for the follow-up “Hit the Street Jack”, written by R&B singer Percy Mayfield.

By late 1961, Charles had expanded his small street ensemble to a giant band, partly as a response to rising royalties and touring charges, changing into one of many few black artists to cross over into mainstream pop with such a degree of inventive management.[35][40] This success, nevertheless, got here to a momentary halt throughout a live performance tour in November 1961, when a police search of Charles’s lodge room in Indianapolis, Indiana, led to the invention of heroin within the drugs cupboard. The case was ultimately dropped, because the search lacked a correct warrant by the police, and Charles quickly returned to music.[40]

Within the early Nineteen Sixties, on the way in which from Louisiana to Oklahoma Metropolis, Charles confronted a near-death expertise when the pilot of his airplane misplaced visibility, as snow and his failure to make use of the defroster triggered the windshield of the airplane to grow to be fully lined in ice. The pilot made a couple of circles within the air earlier than he was lastly in a position to see by means of a small a part of the windshield and land the airplane. Charles positioned a non secular interpretation on the occasion, claiming that “one thing or somebody which devices can’t detect” was chargeable for creating the small opening within the ice on the windshield which enabled the pilot to land the airplane safely.[12]

The 1962 album Fashionable Sounds in Nation and Western Music and its sequel, Fashionable Sounds in Nation and Western Music, Vol. 2, helped to carry nation music into the musical mainstream. Charles’s model of the Don Gibson tune “I Cannot Cease Loving You” topped the Pop chart for 5 weeks, stayed at No. 1 on the R&B chart for ten weeks, and gave him his solely number-one report within the UK. In 1962, he based his report label, Tangerine, which ABC-Paramount promoted and distributed.[12]: 248  [25]: 213–16  He had main pop hits in 1963 with “Busted” (US No. 4) and “Take These Chains from My Coronary heart” (US No. 8).[41] In 1964, Margie Hendrix was kicked out of the Raelettes after a giant argument.

In 1964, Charles’s profession was halted as soon as extra after he was arrested for a 3rd time for possession of heroin.[42] He agreed to go to rehab to keep away from jail time and ultimately kicked his behavior at a clinic in Los Angeles. After spending a 12 months on parole, Charles reappeared within the charts in 1966 with a sequence of hits composed with Ashford & Simpson and Jo Armstead,[43] together with the dance quantity “I Do not Want No Physician” and “Let’s Go Get Stoned”, which turned his first number-one R&B hit in a number of years. His cowl model of “Crying Time”, initially recorded by nation singer Buck Owens, reached No. 6 on the pop chart and helped Charles win a Grammy Award the next March. In 1967, he had a top-twenty hit with one other ballad, “Right here We Go Once more”.[44]

1971–1983: Industrial decline

Color photo of Nixon and Ray Charles

Charles assembly with President Richard Nixon, 1972 (picture by Oliver F. Atkins)

Charles’s renewed chart success, nevertheless, proved to be quick lived, and by the Nineteen Seventies his music was not often performed on radio stations. The rise of psychedelic rock and tougher types of rock and R&B music had decreased Charles’s radio attraction, as did his selecting to report pop requirements and covers of latest rock and soul hits, since his earnings from proudly owning his masters had taken away the motivation to jot down new materials. Charles nonetheless continued to have an energetic recording profession. Most of his recordings between 1968 and 1973 evoked sturdy reactions: both adored or panned by followers and critics alike.[19] His recordings throughout this era, particularly 1972’s A Message from the Folks, moved towards the progressive soul sound common on the time.[45] A Message from the Folks included his distinctive gospel-influenced model of “America the Lovely” and plenty of protest songs about poverty and civil rights. Charles was typically criticized for his model of “America the Lovely” as a result of it was very drastically modified from the tune’s authentic model. On July 14, 1973, Margie Hendrix, the mom of Ray’s son Charles Wayne Hendrix, died at 38 years outdated, which led to Ray caring for the kid. The official reason for her dying is unknown.

In 1974, Charles left ABC Data and recorded a number of albums on his personal label, Crossover Data. A 1975 recording of Stevie Marvel’s hit “Dwelling for the Metropolis” later helped Charles win one other Grammy. In 1977, he reunited with Ahmet Ertegun and re-signed to Atlantic Data, for which he recorded the album True to Life, remaining together with his outdated label till 1980. Nevertheless, the label had now begun to deal with rock acts, and a few of their distinguished soul artists, akin to Aretha Franklin, have been beginning to be uncared for. In November 1977 he appeared because the host of the NBC tv present Saturday Evening Dwell.[46]

In April 1979, his model of “Georgia on My Thoughts” was proclaimed the state tune of Georgia, and an emotional Charles carried out the tune on the ground of the state legislature. In 1980 Charles carried out within the musical movie The Blues Brothers.[19] Though he had notably supported the American Civil Rights Motion and Martin Luther King Jr. within the Nineteen Sixties, Charles was criticized for performing on the Solar Metropolis resort in South Africa in 1981, throughout a world boycott protesting that nation’s apartheid coverage. He later defended his selection of performing there after insisting that the viewers of black and white followers would combine whereas he was there.[19]

1983–2004: Later years

In 1983, Charles signed a contract with Columbia. He recorded a string of nation albums and had hit singles in duets with singers akin to George Jones, Chet Atkins, B. J. Thomas, Mickey Gilley, Hank Williams Jr., Dee Dee Bridgewater (“Valuable Factor”) and his longtime pal Willie Nelson, with whom he recorded “Seven Spanish Angels”.

In 1985, Charles participated within the musical recording and video “We Are the World”, a charity single recorded by the supergroup United Help of Artists (USA) for Africa.

Charles on the 2003 Montreal Worldwide Jazz Pageant, one in every of his final public performances

Earlier than the discharge of his first album for Warner, Would You Imagine, Charles made a return to the R&B charts with a canopy of the Brothers Johnson’s “I am going to Be Good to You”, a duet together with his lifelong pal Quincy Jones and the singer Chaka Khan, which hit primary on the R&B chart in 1990 and received Charles and Khan a Grammy for his or her duet. Previous to this, Charles returned to the pop charts with “Child Grand”, a duet with the singer Billy Joel. In 1989, he recorded a canopy of the Southern All Stars’ “Itoshi no Ellie” for a Japanese TV commercial for the Suntory model, releasing it in Japan as “Ellie My Love”, the place it reached No. 3 on its Oricon chart.[47] In the identical 12 months he was a particular visitor on the Enviornment di Verona in the course of the tour selling Oro Incenso & Birra of the Italian singer Zucchero Fornaciari.

In 2001–02, Charles appeared in commercials for the New Jersey Lottery to advertise its marketing campaign “For each dream, there is a jackpot”.[48]

In 2003, he headlined the White Home Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C., attended by President George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.[49]

Additionally in 2003, Charles introduced Van Morrison with Morrison’s award upon being inducted within the Songwriters Corridor of Fame, and the 2 sang Morrison’s tune “Loopy Love” (the efficiency seems on Morrison’s 2007 album The Better of Van Morrison Quantity 3). In 2003, Charles carried out “Georgia on My Thoughts” and “America the Lovely” at a televised annual banquet of digital media journalists held in Washington, D.C. His closing public look was on April 30, 2004, on the dedication of his music studio as a historic landmark in Los Angeles.[19]


Affect on music trade

Charles possessed some of the recognizable voices in American music. Within the phrases of musicologist Henry Pleasants:

Sinatra, and Bing Crosby earlier than him, had been masters of phrases. Ray Charles is a grasp of sounds. His data disclose a rare assortment of slurs, glides, turns, shrieks, wails, breaks, shouts, screams and hollers, all splendidly managed, disciplined by impressed musicianship, and harnessed to ingenious subtleties of concord, dynamics and rhythm… It’s both the singing of a person whose vocabulary is insufficient to specific what’s in his coronary heart and thoughts or of 1 whose emotions are too intense for passable verbal or conventionally melodic articulation. He cannot inform it to you. He cannot even sing it to you. He has to cry out to you, or shout to you, in tones eloquent of despair—or exaltation. The voice alone, with little help from the textual content or the notated music, conveys the message.[50]

Charles with President Ronald Reagan and First Woman Nancy Reagan, 1984

Pleasants continues, “Ray Charles is often described as a baritone, and his talking voice would counsel as a lot, as would the problem he experiences in reaching and sustaining the baritone’s excessive E and F in a well-liked ballad. However the voice undergoes some kind of transfiguration below stress, and in music of gospel or blues character he can and does sing for measures on finish within the excessive tenor vary of A, B flat, B, C and even C sharp and D, typically in full voice, typically in an ecstatic head voice, typically in falsetto. In falsetto he continues as much as E and F above excessive C. On one extraordinary report, ‘I am Going All the way down to the River’…he hits an unimaginable B flat…giving him an total vary, together with the falsetto extension, of at the very least three octaves.”

His model and success within the genres of rhythm and blues and jazz had an affect on plenty of extremely profitable artists, together with, as Jon Pareles has famous, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Marvel, Van Morrison, and Billy Joel.[51] Different singers who’ve acknowledged Charles’s affect on their very own kinds embody James Booker,[52] Steve Winwood,[53] Richard Manuel,[54] and Gregg Allman.[55] In line with Joe Levy, a music editor for Rolling Stone, “The hit data he made for Atlantic within the mid-Fifties mapped out every part that may occur to rock ‘n’ roll and soul music within the years that adopted”.[35] Charles was additionally an inspiration to Pink Floyd member Roger Waters, who advised the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet: “I used to be about 15. In the midst of the evening with mates, we have been listening to jazz. It was “Georgia on My Thoughts”, Ray Charles’s model. Then I assumed ‘In the future, if I make some folks really feel solely one-twentieth of what I’m feeling now, will probably be fairly sufficient for me.'”[56]

Ray, a biopic portraying his life and profession between the mid-Thirties and 1979, was launched in October 2004, starring Jamie Foxx as Charles. Foxx received the 2005 Academy Award for Finest Actor for the function.

Awards and honors

Star honoring Charles on the Hollywood Stroll of Fame, at 6777 Hollywood Boulevard

In 1975, Ray Charles was inducted into the American Academy of Achievement and introduced with the Golden Plate Award and the Academy of Achievement gold medal.[57][58]

In 1979, Charles was one of many first musicians born within the state to be inducted into the Georgia Music Corridor of Fame.[59] His model of “Georgia on My Thoughts” was additionally made the official state tune of the state of Georgia.[60]

In 1981, he was given a star on the Hollywood Stroll of Fame and was one of many first inductees to the Rock & Roll Corridor of Fame at its inaugural ceremony, in 1986.[61] He additionally obtained the Kennedy Heart Honors in 1986.[62]

Charles received 17 Grammy Awards from his 37 nominations.[10] In 1987, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.[10]

In 1991, he was inducted to the Rhythm & Blues Basis and was introduced with the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement in the course of the 1991 UCLA Spring Sing.[63]

In 1990, he was given an honorary doctorate of nice arts by the College of South Florida.[64]

In 1993, he was awarded the Nationwide Medal of Arts.[65] In 1998 he was awarded the Polar Music Prize, along with Ravi Shankar, in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2004 he was inducted to the Nationwide Black Sports activities & Leisure Corridor of Fame.[66] The Grammy Awards of 2005 have been devoted to Charles.

In 2001, Morehouse School honored Charles with the Candle Award for Lifetime Achievement in Arts and Leisure,[67] and later that very same 12 months granted him an honorary physician of humane letters.[68] Charles donated $2 million to Morehouse “to fund, educate and encourage the subsequent era of musical pioneers.”[68]

In 2003, Charles was awarded an honorary diploma by Dillard College, and upon his dying he endowed a professorship of African-American culinary historical past on the college, the primary such chair within the nation.[69]

In 2010, a $20 million, 76,000 sq ft (7,100 m2) facility named the Ray Charles Performing Arts Heart and Music Educational Constructing, opened at Morehouse.[70]

America Postal Service issued a eternally stamp honoring Charles, as a part of its Musical Icons sequence, on September 23, 2013.[71]

In 2015, Charles was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Corridor of Fame.[72]

In 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama mentioned, “Ray Charles’s model of “America the Lovely” will all the time be for my part essentially the most patriotic piece of music ever carried out”[73]

In 2021, Charles was posthumously inducted into the Nation Music Corridor of Fame, the third African-American to be inducted after Charley Pleasure (2000) and Deford Bailey (2005). He was additionally the thirteenth particular person to be inducted into each the Nation and Rock Halls of Fame.[74]

Contribution to civil rights motion

On March 15, 1961, shortly after the discharge of the hit tune “Georgia on My Thoughts” (1960), the Albany, Georgia-born musician was scheduled to carry out at a dance at Bell Auditorium in Augusta, however cancelled the present after studying from college students of Paine School that the bigger auditorium dance flooring can be restricted to whites, whereas blacks can be obligated to take a seat within the Music Corridor balcony. Charles left city instantly after letting the general public know why he would not be performing, however the promoter went on to sue Charles for breach of contract, and Charles was fined $757 in Fulton County Superior Courtroom in Atlanta on June 14, 1962. The next 12 months, Charles did carry out at a desegregated Bell Auditorium live performance collectively together with his backup group the Raelettes on October 23, 1963,[75][76][77] as depicted within the 2004 movie, Ray.[78] On December 7, 2007, Ray Charles Plaza was opened in Albany, Georgia, with a revolving, lighted bronze sculpture of Charles seated at a piano.[63]

The Ray Charles Basis

Statue by Andy Davis in Ray Charles Plaza in Albany, Georgia

Based in 1986, the Ray Charles Basis maintains the mission assertion of financially supporting establishments and organizations within the analysis of listening to issues.[79] Initially often called The Robinson Basis for Listening to Issues, it was renamed in 2006 and has offered monetary donations to quite a few establishments concerned in listening to loss analysis and training.[80] The aim of the inspiration has been “to manage funds for scientific, academic and charitable functions; to encourage, promote and educate, by means of grants to establishments and organizations, as to the causes and cures for ailments and disabilities of the listening to impaired and to help organizations and establishments of their social academic and educational development of packages for the youth, and keep on different charitable and academic actions related to these objectives as allowed by legislation”.[81]

Recipients of donations embody Benedict School, Morehouse School, and different universities.[82] The muse has taken motion towards donation recipients who don’t use funds in accordance with its mission assertion, such because the Albany State College, which was made to return a $3 million donation after not utilizing the funds for over a decade.[83] The muse homes its government workplaces on the historic RPM Worldwide Constructing, initially the house of Ray Charles Enterprises and now additionally residence to the Ray Charles Memorial Library on the primary flooring, which was based on September 23, 2010 (what would have been his eightieth birthday). The library was based to “present an avenue for younger kids to expertise music and artwork in a approach that may encourage their creativity and creativeness”, and isn’t open to the general public with out reservation, as the principle purpose is to teach mass teams of underprivileged youth and supply artwork and historical past to these with out entry to such paperwork.[84]

Private life

Charles said in his 1978 autobiography, Brother Ray: Ray Charles’ Personal Story, that he turned hooked on ladies after shedding his virginity at 12 years outdated to a lady about 20. “Cigarettes and smack [heroin] are the 2 actually addictive habits I’ve recognized. You may add ladies,” he mentioned. “My obsession facilities on ladies—did then [when young] and does now. I can not go away them alone,” he added.[85]

Relationships and kids

Charles was married twice. His first marriage was lower than a 12 months, his second 22 years. All through his life Charles had many relationships with ladies with whom he fathered a dozen kids.

His marriage to Eileen Williams lasted from July 31, 1951, till 1952.

He met his second spouse Della Beatrice Howard Robinson (referred to as “Bea” by Charles) in Texas in 1954. They married the next 12 months on April 5, 1955. Their first little one collectively, Ray Charles Robinson Jr., was born in 1955. Charles was not on the town for the delivery as a result of he was taking part in a present in Texas. The couple had two extra sons, David and Robert. They raised their kids in View Park, California.[86] Charles felt that his heroin habit took a toll on Della throughout their marriage.[12] On account of his drug habit, extramarital affairs on excursions and unstable habits, the wedding deteriorated and so they divorced after 22 years of marriage in 1977.[87]

Charles had a six-year-long affair with Margie Hendrix, one of many authentic Raelettes, and in 1959 that they had a son, Charles Wayne. His affair with Mae Mosley Lyles resulted in one other 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 most cancers on June 15, 2017.[88] In 1977, Charles had a toddler together with his Parisian lover Arlette Kotchounian whom he met in 1967.[89] His long-term girlfriend and associate on the time of his dying was Norma Pinella.[90]

Charles fathered a complete of 12 kids with ten totally different ladies:[36]

  • Evelyn Robinson, born in 1949 (daughter with Louise Flowers)
  • Ray Charles Robinson Jr., born Could 25, 1955 (son with spouse Della Bea Robinson)
  • David Robinson, born in 1958 (son with spouse Della Bea Robinson)
  • Charles Wayne Hendricks, born on October 1, 1959 (son with Margie Hendricks, one of many Raelettes)[89]
  • Robert Robinson, born in 1960 (son with spouse 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)[87]

Charles held a household luncheon for his twelve kids in 2002, ten of whom attended. He advised them he was mortally sick and $500,000 had been positioned in trusts for every of the kids to be paid out over the subsequent 5 years.[36][91]

Drug abuse and authorized issues

At 18, Charles first tried marijuana when he performed in McSon Trio and was desperate to strive it as he thought it helped musicians create music and faucet into their creativity. He later turned hooked on heroin for seventeen years.[85] Charles was first arrested in 1955, when he and his bandmates have been caught backstage with unfastened marijuana and drug paraphernalia, together with a burnt spoon, syringe, and needle. The arrest didn’t deter his drug use, which solely escalated as he turned extra profitable and made extra money.[25]

In 1958, Charles was arrested on a Harlem road nook for possession of narcotics and tools for administering heroin.[92]

Charles was arrested on a narcotics cost on November 14, 1961, whereas ready in an Indiana lodge room earlier than a efficiency. The detectives seized heroin, marijuana, and different gadgets.[93] Charles, then 31, mentioned he had been a drug addict because the age of 16. The case was dismissed due to the way by which the proof was obtained,[94] however Charles’ scenario didn’t enhance till a couple of years later.

On Halloween 1964, Charles was arrested for possession of heroin at Boston’s Logan Airport.[42] He determined to give up heroin and entered St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood, California, the place he endured 4 days of chilly turkey withdrawal. Following his self-imposed keep, he pleaded responsible to 4 narcotic fees. Prosecutors referred to as for 2 years in jail and a hefty nice, however the decide listened to Dr. Hacker’s account of Charles’ dedication to get off medication and he was despatched to McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts.[95] The decide provided to postpone the decision for a 12 months if Charles agreed to bear common examinations by government-appointed physicians. When Charles returned to courtroom, he obtained a five-year suspended sentence, 4 years of probation, and a nice of $10,000.[96]

Charles responded to the saga of his drug use and reform with the songs “I Do not Want No Physician” and “Let’s Go Get Stoned” and the discharge of Crying Time, his first album since kicking his heroin habit in 1966.[97][98]

Chess interest

Charles loved taking part in chess. As a part of his remedy when he give up heroin, he met with psychiatrist Friedrich Hacker [de], who taught him the way to play chess, thrice per week.[96] He used a particular board with raised squares and holes for the items. When questioned if folks attempt to cheat towards a blind man, he joked in reply, “You’ll be able to’t cheat in Chess… I am gonna see that!”[99] In a 1991 live performance, he referred to Willie Nelson as “my chess associate”.[100] In 2002, he performed and misplaced to the American grandmaster and former U.S. champion Larry Evans.[101]


In 2003, Charles had profitable hip substitute surgical procedure and was planning to return on tour, till he started affected by different illnesses. He died at his residence in Beverly Hills, California, of problems ensuing from liver failure,[4] on June 10, 2004, on the age of 73.[102] His funeral came about on June 18, 2004, on the First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles, with quite a few musical figures in attendance.[103] B.B. King, Glen Campbell, Stevie Marvel and Wynton Marsalis every performed a tribute on the funeral.[104] He was interred within the Inglewood Park Cemetery.

His closing album, Genius Loves Firm, launched two months after his dying, consists of duets with admirers and contemporaries: B.B. King, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, James Taylor, Gladys Knight, Michael McDonald, Natalie Cole, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Krall, Norah Jones and Johnny Mathis. The album received eight Grammy Awards, together with Finest Pop Vocal Album, Album of the Yr, Report of the Yr and Finest Pop Collaboration with Vocals (for “Right here We Go Once more”, with Norah Jones), and Finest Gospel Efficiency (for “Heaven Assist Us All”, with Gladys Knight); he additionally obtained nods for his duets with Elton John and B.B. King. The album included a model of Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg’s “Over the Rainbow”, sung as a duet with Johnny Mathis, which was performed at Charles’ memorial service.[104]

The episode “Faculty’s Out: The Musical” from The Pretty OddParents was devoted to his reminiscence.


Charles’ discography is extremely complicated and in depth. AllMusic has listed roughly 60 authentic albums and greater than 200 compilation albums, whereas music essayist Robert Christgau famous the existence of extra. At the very least 20 report labels have launched near-identical compilations of Charles’ pre-Atlantic Data tracks, whereas most of the masters that Charles started to personal after 1960 weren’t digitally reissued, main the Atlantic sister label Rhino Leisure to deal with rereleasing his mid-to-late Fifties music. Christgau has referred to as Charles’ discography a “monumental mess” and that “any map of his oeuvre have to be private and provisional”.[105]



Yr Title Position Notes
1961 Swingin’ Alongside Himself
1965 Ballad in Blue Himself
1966 The Massive T.N.T. Present Himself Documentary movie
1980 The Blues Brothers Ray Cameo look
1989 Restrict Up Julius
1990 Hear Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones Himself Documentary
1994 Love Affair Himself Cameo look
1996 Spy Laborious Bus Driver Cameo look
1998 New Yorkers 2 Himself Cameo look
2000 The Excessive Adventures of Tremendous Dave Himself
2000 Blue’s Massive Musical Film G-Clef (voice) Last movie function earlier than his dying in 2004
2004 Ray Himself Uncredited
Archival footage


Yr Title Position Notes
1977 Saturday Evening Dwell Himself (host) Season 3, Episode 5
1977- Sesame Avenue Himself 3 episodes
1987 Who’s the Boss Himself Episode: “Hit the Street, Chad”
1987 St. Elsewhere Arthur Tibbits Episode: “Jose, Can You See?”
1987 Moonlighting Himself Episode: “A Journey to the Moon”
1987-1990 Tremendous Dave Himself 4 episodes
1994 Ray Alexander: A Style for Justice Tv film
1994 Wings Himself Episode: “A First rate Proposal”
1997–1998 The Nanny Sammy 4 episodes

See additionally

  • Album period
  • Progressive soul


  • Official web site
  • Every day Telegraph obituary
  • Oral historical past video excerpts on the Nationwide Visionary Management Undertaking
  • Nation Music Corridor of Fame
  • Look at WFOY Radio constructing
  • Ray Charles autobiography: The Early Years 1930–1960 on the Wayback Machine (archived October 12, 2007)
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Ray Charles discography at Discogs
  • Ray Charles at Discover a Grave
  • Ray Charles at IMDb
  • Ray Charles discography at MusicBrainz
  • Ray Charles”. Rock and Roll Corridor of Fame. Edit this at Wikidata
  • Ray Charles at Rolling Stone

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