June 10, 2004 by

Ray Charles


Categories: Musicians

rcharles.jpg“Music’s been around a long time, and there’s going to be music long after Ray Charles is dead. I just want to make my mark, leave something musically good behind. If it’s a big record, that’s the frosting on the cake, but music’s the main meal,” Charles once said in an interview with The Washington Post.
His mark was indelible.
Born Ray Charles Robinson, he saw his brother drown in a tub the family used for laundry. Two years later, Charles lost his eyesight; some say from glaucoma, but the actual illness was never discovered. He learned to read and write music in Braille at the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind, and picked up several instruments, including the alto sax, clarinet, trumpet and the piano.
When his mother died, the 15-year-old supported himself by playing music in black dance halls. He moved to Seattle, dropped his last name and formed the McSon Trio to back R&B singer Ruth Brown. He also befriended a young man named Quincy Jones, and played with the future Grammy Award-winning producer/composer in small club and wedding gigs.
In the 1950s, Atlantic Records purchased his contract from Swingtime Records. His first cross-over hit was the song, “What’d I Say.” It topped the charts and sold a million copies in 1959 despite the fact that the suggestive moans provided by female backup singers, the Raeletts, caused several U.S. radio stations to ban its broadcast. After signing with ABC-Paramount Records, Charles received higher royalties and ownership of his master recordings. He launched his own labels (Tangerine and Crossover), and soon earned the nickname “The Genius.”
His deep, roughened voice and swayin’ piano playin’ appealed to several generations. He connected with audiences in the 1950s by infusing gospel with rock ‘n roll rhythms. In the 1960s, Charles broke color barriers in the country music industry. His version of “Georgia on My Mind” was named the state’s official song in 1979. Children of the 1980s admired his soulful stylings in the film, “The Blues Brothers,” and the youth of today knew him for his jaunty pop TV commercials for Pepsi and appearances on “Sesame Street.”
Charles won 12 Grammy Awards — nine of them between 1960 and 1966. He transformed standards like “Makin’ Whoopee,” “America the Beautiful,” “It Had to Be You” and “Come Rain or Come Shine” into classics. Charles was part of the first class of musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He received the Presidential Medal for the Arts, and was cited as “one of the most respected singers of his generation” at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986.
Charles recently recorded an album of duets with Norah Jones, B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Michael McDonald and James Taylor that is due out in August. The biopic, “Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story,” starring Jamie Foxx, will be released this fall.
Outside of work, he lived a partying life, one that was chronicled in the 1978 autobiography, “Brother Ray: Ray Charles’ Own Story.” Charles was married and divorced twice, fathered 12 children and developed quite a reputation as a womanizer. He also struggled with heroin addiction for nearly two decades before quitting in 1965.
Charles died on June 10 of acute liver disease. He was 73.
Listen to a Tribute From NPR

68 Responses to Ray Charles

  1. connie

    well what can you say about a national icon (hero )with the voice of soulfulness and inspiration that cut across color barriers and unite we as people to his songs you never would say thats a black man (afro-american)all you would say is that RAYS CHARLES CAN SING AND I LOVE OR LIKE HIS MUSIC REGARDLESS WHO YOU ARE …be honest he was one of the greatest…many have followed and try to emulate him but they too have fallen short.oh well we had him down here on earth with us for 73years now he is with GODmaking him happy just like he done with his fans,family,friends.GOD BLESS MR.RAY CHARLES ROBINSON AND HIS BELOVED FAMILY AND FRIENDS,FANS…..

  2. Deborah

    I just want to say that Brother Ray was my mom’s favorite musician. My mother, an accordian player..and piano player would play many Ray songs in such a heart wrenching way. I guess maybe Ray’s passing has brought up alot of memories about my mom who was from a Polish Immigrant family, gave me alot of inspiration and I thank her for plalying lot’s of Ray. He will be missed

  3. Johnnie Johnson

    I first heard Ray Charles
    When I was a little boy of 6 years old, I too lost my sight after doctors gave me some medication that I was allergic to. This was after I had some kind of breathing spell one night as I was sleeping.
    I use to listen to Ray

  4. fanofraycharles

    we are very sorry to hear of the death of ray, a real icon to the jazz empire.
    WE LOVE YOU CHARLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Gail

    I saw Rau Charles in Concert in the early 70’s
    he was a musical genius and his music will live on for centuries. We will all miss him very much
    all of us from around the globe.
    Goodbye Soul Man your music will live on and it

  6. Erika

    I’m so sorry that Ray charles died, I just listen to one of his songs called “A Song For You” I really cant believed he died. And I hope he rest in peace well he is up in heaven. I havent heard al his songs but I would like to hear them. I also am going to see his movie about him and i bet I’ll cry after. And again im sorry!

  7. La-Toya Moore

    Ray Charles: Ray
    Everyone needs to see the movie “Ray.” There are so many life lessons in this movie. This movie taught me though I can see, that my own life is filled with darkness. Kudos to Jamie Foxx. Let not are children forget what he brought into this world and let behind.
    La-Toya Moore (moorela25@hotmail.com)

  8. Denise

    Incredible! Loved the movie and the music! My 9 year old niece fell in love with the music and enjoyed the movie even more than I did! His life was incredible and facinating. I have so much admiration and respect for him and his music.

  9. Felicia

    Ray Charles ay a Very Inspiring man to me especially because he was an African American from the dirty south. Jamie Foxx did a Job on his movie and I think that they should win award and be nominated alot

  10. vandelene

    I am very sad to hear of the death of Ray Charles. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him because he had, what most of us feel is a handicap, but he didn’t let that prevent him from becoming one of the greatest musicians in the world and I also loved his style. He wrote songs about people and situations that a person could relate to. When I was young, my grandmother, who was a devout Christian, would warn us about the consequences of listening to those blues records, but when Ray Charles came on the tv, she would stop whatever she was doing and give him her undivided attention, sometimes, even tapping her feet along with the beat. Thank you Brother Ray Charles.

  11. Akemi

    I love Ray Charles.I love his music. When I saw his movie it honestly made me cry. I respect him so much for all of the things he achieved and all of the things that he had to go through. For my social studies project we had to pick two people who we think are revolutionaries. I chose him as one of my revolutionaries. I love Ray!

  12. Frank Holloway

    Ray Charles was a brillant man with lots of talent . He could play the piano very well and the music was great . The movie about Ray Charles was great . It taught me a lesson about life . When Ray Charles died it mad me very sad . Ray Charles was a very encouraging person . I think Ray Charles was a man who had many things going for him . All his songs inspired me . His albums had a great deal of music . Ray Charles will always have a speacial place in my heart .

  13. Ms. J.D. Parker

    I have always been a fan of Mr. Charles and after watching Jamie Foxx in the movie “Ray”, I have come to love him even more. He was a very complex yet loving man with a wealth of talent to last ten lifetimes!!! God Speed, Mr. Charles and take your well deserved rest!.

  14. Chip

    Steve for 12/26, have you found out what brand of sunglasses he wore yet?. I’ve been searching, but have come up with nothing. Help anyone???

  15. Layo

    Men Ray charles was my dwag. I will always remember him as a artist of true soul. When I heard about his death it really hit me. But I always wanted to know why he nver showed his eye’s. Anyway I will continue listen his songs especially ”Georgia On My Mind”
    That’s my joint.
    One love R.I.P Ray
    Charles. Your girl

  16. christina wells watkins

    I never really knew Ray Charles until the appreance of his with Jamie Foxx and I were thrilled by what i experience it touch in a way that I never been touch before he were really a expiring person and I will miss him very much. And he’s in a better place now.May god be with him in heaven. love you ray.


    I have always loved Ray;s music,,, and the movie was wonderful..i love a movie that really has a story,, and to know that Ray walked them all the way..WONDERFUL

  18. quincie

    Ray, I grew up listening to my father(deceased) play your music. I think I heard “I’m Busted,” “Hit the Road Jack,” and “What I Say” more than the others. I’ve seen you from the Ed Sullivan Show to watching you sing an unprecedented version of “America the Beautiful.” There is no other “Ray,” other than Jamie Fox who portrays your persona to perfection. Your music has, and will continue to embellish the lives of others — crossing over generations of time. May you RIP.

  19. Angela Jones

    I saw the Ray Chgarles movie was at my godmom house and to let the world know I Love Ray charles.It was the best movie i eva seen i like the part when he learn how to help his self and dont need nobody to help him and I also like all his song like the one I got a woman,and Georgia on my mind, and hit the road Jack.

  20. Tasha

    People always say I have a old soul,,,,well let me tell you Brother Ray has touched it.
    This man was one of the greatest and no one can deny that!
    Brother Ray I hope wherever you are you at at peace and playing that piano.

  21. Alex

    Ray Charles is a legend and a roe model there will never be anyone like him in the future and the fact that he passed away so soon in a terrible tragedy

  22. Kate

    i’m 16 yrs old and doing a biography on Ray!! and would like yo say the he is one of the most heart touching ppl i have ever read about, and i hope to god there will be more people like him in this world!!!

  23. Richard

    I just seen the movie Ray, I was never a fan but I am now I did not know to much about Ray but I have learned A lot in the past few days after watching the film, he was one of the best, I will miss him…

  24. ROBERT


  25. William Christy

    God has made his own space for greatness and talent though only for a season he was ours but true blessing is always ours to keep in our minds and souls forever and till the day we meet in the mansion that the lord has made before us he will always keep blessing through his music and smile

  26. Jasmine

    He will be sadly missed but never forgotten. He was the best singer and movie star ever alive. we loved him and god be with his family.
    Jasmine Street


    I love you so much Ray Charles Robinson…
    You are one of my Idol as a singer/musician…
    I’ll never forget you… the legendary RAY CHARLES
    May you rest in peace…
    God Bless…

  28. TheVoxFox

    I’ve enjoyed Ray’s music for a long time, but listened to it with a different ear after Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of the great performer. I’ve started writing about it and would love to hear from you to include your comments. I’m working on a Ph.D. at Georgia State University and am taking an academic approach to Jamie Foxx’s performance in the film. If you’d like to share your thoughts and feelings with me about the film, please send me an email at cindy@thevoxfox.com. This spring I’m working on my 3rd research paper about the film and it may very well turn out to be my dissertation. What an inspiring topic!


    I watch more than 10 times… ’bout the life of The genious RAY CHARLES… it inspired me alive to back all the musics and rythm of yesteryears…
    I miss him so much… and I love him so much… and I’ll always will… forever…
    And I would like to thanks… Mr. Jamie
    Foxx… for to mesmerise and immortalized the precious moments of my IDOL and beloved RAY CHARLES… bringin’ back all his memories in this world.
    I’m just a singer / musician, workin’ around all around asia and middle east…
    Related Links : http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ray_charles_fans_club/

  30. missy

    i just saw the movie i really liked it and my dad showed me some of his music and all i gotta say is damn he was and still is good

  31. Maggie Trahan

    Brother Ray Charles you were the best music player ever I Loved your music. I’m a mixed kid who loves to jam to the gospel and other music you sang so greatly God will be with your family all the way through we all have the soul power

  32. Joan Veselinov

    Heh…. I wish i could say a lot of things here about Ray Charles… Well.. the sad thing is that i didnt know who the hell is ray charles untill he died…. i knew the song Hit The Road Jack but i didnt knew who singed this song untill i found the story of it and the singer…I`ve got intrested in Ray Charles when he died… and got some information about him but suddenly an incredible movie came along call`d “Ray” played the wonderfull artist Jamie Foxx … this men is incredible… i saw him on the grammy`s and his speech … i was like owh lord thats imposible for a char. after a little bit time i watched the movie… man… this movie inspired me for so much things… now im gonna be musician and not any other musician but im gonna play piano and be like the great Ray Charles… the movie is something that i wont forget in my whole life…
    Im sorry for my bad language…
    I wish i could see Ray Charles just for 5 seconds… and say ” THank you for being real ! ”
    Joan Veselinov Vasilev.

  33. Mellisa Fougere

    Iam very sorry about what happened to Ray. He was one of my favourite musicians. I have all of his cd’s and lots of posters of his. I have seen the movie Ray and i cried through it along with my friend April Felske who didnt cry but thought it was sad. I wish for everybody to watch it and reply to this and say what thay think , i want to say srry to his family and to his friends. I
    am gonna go now but i wish every body the best of luck and again i am very,veryu,very, sorry for every one who new him.

  34. jasmine

    i am in grade 7 and i am doing a report (by choice) on Ray Charles. i saw the movie and cried all te way through.he was a magnificent man and he will never be forgotten. i very much enjoied do this report and i think now that i have reasurched his life and heard some of his music i will want to learn more on his and his style. i hope that he will always be remembered as he should be-“the genius”. he is a great musical insparation and he will be recognized for his perststance to not let a disability hold him back. I’LL MISS YOU RAY YOU ARE A GREAT MAN!

  35. Denver

    A. That kid is in the 7th grade for christ’s sake! Why the malevolence?
    B. This is a Ray Charles tribute blog, not a bash-little-kids blog.
    Ray Charles will be most certainly missed. Also, anyone kind those sunglasses yet? I too have been searching far and wide for the brand name of Ray’s glasses, to no avail.



  37. nancy

    I have been a fan of Ray Charles for a long time and loved the movie but am wondering about his children. Have any pursued a career in “the business”?

  38. Kelsey Ollinger

    RAY CHARLES wonderful man. Ray let you R.I.P. RAY CHARLES LIVES IN EVERYBODY. Ray my inspiration. Ray WILL always be remembered by his piano,voice,sunglasses.

  39. Tracy

    …I can’t beleive that there is not much or many biography on Ray Charles wife or wives, marriage and marriage date or who were all those 12 kids by.

  40. Tyson

    Dear Ray,
    What can I say that a million other people already haven’t. I guess another personal inspiration story will have to do. Being a musician, it gives me a place to come from. The first time I heard your music was when I was five years old. Georgia on my Mind is still one of my favorite songs. Growing up, there was always a crowd and always a little Ray that everyone wanted to hear. To this day, I tried to stay true to what you tried to achieve back then. Among all of the accolades you’ve acquired and award hoisted up, your personal touch on the lives of thousands and thousands of young musicians over the last half century is what makes you a legend in our minds. So here’s to you Ray. The one and only.

  41. Simeko Revador

    (For you Ray)
    Quiet a legend you are, so unique Ray, indeed a bonafide star
    There is no replacement for you
    We’re left with your gift of music to help us through
    You’re earthly life came to an end
    For me it was ‘CRYING TIME AGAIN’
    You’ve inspired us to sing, and made us smile
    It seems the Lord said, Come now, take your rest child
    It’s time to sing on the othe side, with Ella, Marvin, oh yeah and Richard Pryor
    This world of sin shall ‘Unchain Your Heart’
    For joy comes in the morning, God’s given you a new start
    Written By: Simeko Revador
    Author: God Is Just A Prayer Away

  42. Juliana Rice

    Ray was a great man his death is a saddddd and in the words of the theif when Jesus was being crusifide Jesus remember me when u r in paradice and at that moment he was 4 given so Jesus take good care of the one and only our love RAY CHARLES ray we all love u and hope u remeber that

  43. Pamela

    He sang good soul but that’s about it. I have no respect for any man who cheats on his wife(wives) like he did. He was at the bottom of the barrel in my opinion as a husband, and was a terrible example to his kids on how to be a good husband. Im sick of people idolizing stars who are dead beat loser husbands, and have no respect for their woman.

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