Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004), known by his shortened stage name Ray Charles, was an American musician. He was a pioneer in the genre of soul music during the 1950s by fusing rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles into his early recordings with Atlantic Records.
eight honorary doctoral degrees, seventeen Grammys, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, President’s Merit Award and his Playboy Jazz Awards. He has been recognized repeatedly by Heads of State, Presidents, Premieres, Political Dignitaries and members of Royal families. He was chosen, by the King and Queen of Sweden, to receive the Polar Music Award, which is that country’s most prestigious award and is, recognized the world over. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #10 on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” and #2 on their list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time.”
Many of his other hits, including Drown in My Own Tears (1955) and Busted (1963), were suffused with despair, but he performed them with such fortitude, they came across as revivifying.
"His sound was stunning – it was the blues, it was R&B, it was gospel, it was swing — it was all the stuff I was listening to before that but rolled into one amazing, soulful thing," singer Van Morrison told Rolling Stone magazine
Complemented by lush strings and a harmony-rich choir, he scored with covers of Don Gibson’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and Ted Daffan’s “Born to Lose” — and spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
“For a black man to do this in 1962 was unheard of,”
Although he was heartbroken to be leaving home, it was at school where he received a formal musical education and learned to read, write and arrange music in Braille; score for big bands; and play piano, organ, sax, clarinet, and trumpet.
They call him the “genius” and they call him the “father of soul.” With perfect pitch and an expressive voice, he combines worlds as diverse as jazz, country, rhythm and blues, and gospel to break your heart or make you dance.
Given artistic control at Atlantic after demonstrating his knack as an arranger with Guitar Slim’s “Things That I Used to Do” — the biggest R&B hit of 1954 — Charles responded with a string of recordings in which he truly found his voice.
Ray Charles is one of the great ones, a genius, as he's been called for some 13 years, or, as Sinatra put it, "the only genius in the business." He is the major influence on dozens of blues, jazz, R&B, pop, and rock & roll musicians.
After cutting singles for labels such as Downbeat and Swingtime, Charles wound up on Atlantic Records in 1952. It turned out to be an ideal match between artist and label, as both were just beginning to find their feet.
Soon after the death of his brother he gradually began to lose his sight and by 7 years of age Ray Charles was blind.
A year later, Charles's now classic song, "I Got a Woman," reached No. 1 on the R&B charts. His early work was clearly influenced by Nat King Cole, but his musical style soon became singularly unique, helping to create a new musical genre: soul.
People couldn't understand why my mama would have this blind kid out doing things like cutting wood for the fire. But her thing was: He may be blind, but he ain't stupid.
He'd been using heroin since 1948, when he was 18, and he'd been busted before, around 1956, but it had all been kept hushed. Then, in 1965, Charles was arrested in Boston, reportedly in possession of a planeload of heroin
At 15 years old, Ray Charles was an orphan, but he still managed to make his way in this world under very trying conditions; living in the South and being of African-American heritage, plus being blind and an orphan.
One of the most traumatic events of his childhood was witnessing the drowning death of his younger brother.