2010-07-02 ray charles

CREATED DATE : 2010-07-02

Ray Charles (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004) was an American musician. Charles was a pioneer in the genre of soul music during the 1950s by fusing rhythm & blues, gospel, and blues styles into his early recordings for Atlantic Records. He also helped racially integrate country and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, most notably with his Modern Sounds albums. During his tenure with ABC, Charles became one of the first African-American musicians to be given artistic control by a mainstream record company.

Rolling Stone ranked Charles number 10 on their list of "100 Greatest Artists of All Time" in 2004, and voted him number two on their November 2008 list of "100 Greatest Singers of All Time"


Ray Charles Robinson was the son of Aretha Williams, a sharecropper, and Bailey Robinson, a railroad repair man, mechanic and handyman. Aretha Williams was a devout Christian and the family attended the New Shiloh Baptist Church. When Ray was an infant, his family moved from Albany, Georgia, where he was born, to the poor black community of Jellyroll on the western side of Greenville, Florida.

In his early years, Charles showed a curiosity for mechanical things and he often watched the neighborhood men working on their cars and farm machinery. His musical curiosity was sparked at Mr. Wiley Pit's Red Wing Cafe when Pit played boogie woogie on an old upright piano. Pit would care for George, Ray's brother, so as to take the burden off Williams. However, George drowned in the Williams' wash tub when he was four years old.

Charles started to lose his sight at the age of five. He went completely blind by the age of seven. Though there are sources that suggest his blindness was due to glaucoma, most sources suggest that Ray began to lose his sight from an infection caused by soapy water to his eyes which was left untreated. He attended school at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine from 1937-45, where he developed his musical talent. During this time he performed on WFOY radio in St. Augustine. His father died when he was ten, followed by his mother five years later.


Early career

In school, Charles was taught only classical music, but he wanted to play the jazz and blues he heard on the radio.[12] While at school, he became the school's premier musician. On Fridays, the South Campus Literary Society held assemblies where Charles would play piano and sing popular songs. On Halloween and Washington's birthday, the Colored Department of the school had socials where Charles would play. It was here he established "RC Robinson and the Shop Boys" and sang his own arrangement of "Jingle Bell Boogie."[13] He spent his first Christmas at the school, but later the staff pitched in so that Charles could return to Greenville, as he did each summer.


Later years

In 1965, Ray Charles was arrested for possession of heroin, a drug to which he had been addicted for nearly 20 years.[8] It was his third arrest for the offense, but he avoided jail time after kicking the habit in a clinic in Los Angeles. He spent a year on parole in 1966, when his single "Crying Time" reached #6 on the charts.

During the late 1960s and into the 1970s, Charles's releases were hit-or-miss,[10] with some big hits and critically acclaimed work. His version of "Georgia On My Mind" was proclaimed the state song of Georgia on April 24, 1979, and he performed it on the floor of the state legislature.[10] He also had success with his unique version of "America the Beautiful".

In November 1977 he appeared as the host of NBC's Saturday Night Live.[19] In the 1980s a number of other events increased Charles's recognition among young audiences. He made a cameo appearance in the popular 1980 film The Blues Brothers. In 1985, "The Right Time" was featured in the episode "Happy Anniversary" of The Cosby Show on NBC. The next year in 1986, he sang America The Beautiful at Wrestlemania 2. In a Pepsi Cola commercial of the early 1990s, Charles popularized the catchphrase "You Got the Right One, Baby!" and he was featured in the recording of "We Are the World" for USA for Africa.

Despite his support of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s and his support for the American Civil Rights Movement, Charles courted controversy when he toured South Africa in 1981,[10] during an international boycott of the country because of its apartheid policy.

In 1989, Charles recorded a cover version of the Japanese band Southern All Stars' song "Itoshi no Ellie" as "Ellie My Love" for a Suntory TV advertisement, reaching #3 on Japan's Oricon chart.[20] Eventually, it sold more than 400,000 copies, and became that year's best-selling single performed by a Western artist for the Japanese music market. [citation needed]

Charles also appeared at two Presidential inaugurations in his lifetime. In 1985, he performed for Ronald Reagan's second inauguration, and in 1993 performed for Bill Clinton's first inauguration.[21]

In the late 1980s/early 1990s, Charles made appearances on The Super Dave Osbourne Show, where he performed and appeared in a few vignettes where he was somehow driving a car, often as Super Dave's chauffeur. At the height of his newfound fame in the early nineties, Charles did guest vocals for quite a few projects. He also appeared (with Chaka Khan) on long time friend Quincy Jones' hit "I'll Be Good to You" in 1990, from Jones's album Back on the Block. Following Jim Henson's death in 1990, Ray Charles appeared in the one-hour CBS tribute, The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson. He gave a short speech about the deceased, stating that Henson "took a simple song and a piece of felt and turned it into a moment of great power". Charles was referring to the song "It's Not Easy Being Green", which Charles later performed with the rest of the Muppet cast in a tribute to Henson's legacy. [citation needed]

During the sixth season of Designing Women, Charles sang "Georgia on My Mind", instead of the song being rendered instrumentally by other musicians as in the previous five seasons. He also appeared in 4 episodes of the popular TV comedy The Nanny in Seasons 4 & 5 (1997 & 1998) as 'Sammy', in one episode singing "My Yiddish Mamma" to December romance and later fiancee of character Gramma Yetta, played by veteran actress Ann Guilbert.



He died on June 10, 2004 at 11:35 a.m. of liver cancer at his home in Beverly Hills, California, surrounded by family and friends. He was 73 years old. His body was interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery. Following the funeral, a BBC spokesman commented: "[i]t did not go unnoticed that Susaye [Susaye Greene, former member of the Raelettes as well as of the Supremes and Wonderlove, and currently a solo artist] was the only Raelette to sing at Ray's funeral." [citation needed]

His final album, Genius Loves Company, released two months after his death, consists of duets with various 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 won eight Grammy Awards, including five for Ray Charles for 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's "Over the Rainbow", sung as a duet by Charles and Johnny Mathis, which recording was later played at his memorial service.[22]

Two more posthumous albums, Genius & Friends (2005) and Ray Sings, Basie Swings (2006), were released. Genius & Friends consisted of duets recorded from 1997 to 2005 with his choice of artists. Ray Sings, Basie Swings consists of archived vocals of Ray Charles from live mid-1970s performances added to new instrumental tracks specially recorded by the contemporary Count Basie Orchestra and other musicians. Charles's vocals recorded from the concert mixing board were added to new accompaniments to create a "fantasy concert" recording. Gregg Field, who had performed as a drummer with both Charles and Basie, produced the album.


Hall of Fame and other honors

Statue in Ray Charles Plaza in Albany, Georgia

In 1979, he was one of the first honorees of the Georgia State Music Hall of Fame being recognized for being a musician born in the state.[31] Ray's version of "Georgia On My Mind" was made into the official state song for Georgia.[32] 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.[33] He received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986.[34]

In 1987, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1991, he was inducted to the Rhythm & Blues Foundation. In 1993, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.[35] In 1998 he was awarded the Polar Music Prize together with Ravi Shankar in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2004 he was inducted to the Jazz Hall of Fame, and inducted to the National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall of Fame.[36] The Grammy Awards of 2005 were dedicated to Charles.

On December 7, 2007, Ray Charles Plaza was opened in Albany, Georgia, with a revolving, lighted bronze sculpture of Charles seated at a piano. Later that month, on December 26, 2007, Ray Charles was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. He was also presented with the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, during the 1991 UCLA Spring Sing.


Ray Charles Post Office Building

On Tuesday, July 12, 2005, President George Bush signed into law a bill (PL 109-25), sponsored by Congresswoman Diane E. Watson (CA-33rd), designating the U.S. postal facility located at 4960 W. Washington Blvd. in Los Angeles, California, as the Ray Charles Post Office Building. On August 24, 2005, the United States Congress honored Charles by dedicating and renaming the former West Adams Station post office in Los Angeles the "Ray Charles Station"

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