Ray Charles Robinson was born September 23,1930 in Albany,Georgia to Areatha Williams and Bailey Robinson. As an infant,the family settled in Greenville,Florida.
He was fascinated at a young age of all things mechanical and would watch the neighborhood men work on cars. He developed his interest in music by spending time with a local cafe owner who taught him how to play piano.
At age 7, he became completely blind due to glaucoma. He was sent to St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind where he honed in on and perfected his musical talents.
When his mother died when Ray was 15, he did not return to school He lived with friends of his mother in Tallahassee. He performed in bands at a night club and eventually ended up moving to different cities in Florida to play with various bands, although he really wanted his own band.
In 1947, he moved to Seattle. This is where he first met lifelong friend, Quincy Jones,who was 14 at the time. It was in Seattle where he first started recording for the Down Beat label. His first hit was” Confession Blues” which reached #2 on the R&B charts. He then moved to Swing Time Records. He dropped the Robinson surname to avoid confusion with the boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. He had two more hits for Swing Time. when they folded, he was assigned to Atlantic Records.
His first hit with Atlantic was “Mess Around”. He had several songs that made the charts, but it was “I Got A Woman” that first brought him to national attention. In 1959, he had his first crossover hit, the very successful “What’d I Say”. After recording the album”The Genius of Ray Charles” he left Atlantic Records for ABC- Paramount Records where he was given a very lucrative contract which gave him control and ownership of his master tapes.
He became extremely successful with his many crossover hits which included,”Georgia On My Mind”,”Hit The Road Jack”,”Unchain My Heart”,”I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and “Busted”
After a 20 year addiction to heroin, Ray was arrested in 1965 for possession. He avoided jail time by going through a rehabilitation program.
His version of “Georgia On My Mind” became the official state song of Georgia in 1979. He also recorded a beautiful version of “America The Beautiful”.
He spent his later years still performing ,as well as making appearances in movies such as “The Blues Brothers” and several t.v shows including”Saturday Night Live”,The Cosby Show” and “The Nanny”. He also participated in “W e Are The World” and he for a time did commercials for Pepsi. His final public appearance was in April 2004 where his studio was named a historic landmark.
Ray Charles died June 10,2004 of liver cancer in Los Angeles at the age of 73, in Beverly Hills.
Why I love Ray Charles. I love his unique voice, but more importantly,I am so in awe of his intense talent. Very few impress me more. He never let his disability stand in the way of his success. His singing gives me goose bumps and I just think he is just so wonderful. I realize this sounds simplistic, but it is what it is. Just love the man. Period.
God Bless Ray Charles