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. 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. While with ABC, Charles became one of the first African-American musicians to be given artistic control by a mainstream record company. Frank Sinatra called Charles “the only true genius in show business.”
The influences upon his music were mainly jazz, blues, rhythm and blues and country artists of the day such as Art Tatum, Nat King Cole, Louis Jordan, Charles Brown, Louis Armstrong. His playing reflected influences from country blues and barrelhouse, and stride piano styles.
Rolling Stone ranked Charles number ten on their list of "100 Greatest Artists of All Time" in 2004, and number two on their November 2008 list of "100 Greatest Singers of All Time". In honoring Charles, Billy Joel noted: "This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley. I don't know if Ray was the architect of rock & roll, but he was certainly the first guy to do a lot of things . . . Who the hell ever put so many styles together and made it work.
Statue by Andy Davis in Ray Charles Plaza in Albany, Georgia
Charles possessed one of the most recognizable voices in American music. In the words of musicologist Henry Pleasants:
Sinatra, and Bing Crosby before him, had been masters of words. Ray Charles is a master of sounds. His records disclose an extraordinary assortment of slurs, glides, turns, shrieks, wails, breaks, shouts, screams and hollers, all wonderfully controlled, disciplined by inspired musicianship, and harnessed to ingenious subtleties of harmony, dynamics and rhythm... It is either the singing of a man whose vocabulary is inadequate to express what is in his heart and mind or of one whose feelings are too intense for satisfactory verbal or conventionally melodic articulation. He can’t tell it to you. He can’t 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 assistance from the text or the notated music, conveys the message.
Ray Charles is usually described as a baritone, and his speaking voice would suggest as much, as would the difficulty he experiences in reaching and sustaining the baritone's high E and F in a popular ballad. But the voice undergoes some sort of transfiguration under stress, and in music of gospel or blues character he can and does sing for measures on end in the high tenor range of A, B flat, B, C and ev in full voice, sometimes in an ecstatic head voice, sometimes in falsetto. In falsetto he continues up to E and F above high C. On one extraordinary record, "I’m Going Down to the River’ . . . he hits an incredible B flat . . . giving him an overall range, including the falsetto extension, of at least three octaves.
In 1979, Charles was one of the first of the Georgia State Music Hall of Fame to be recognized as a musician born in the state. Ray's version of "Georgia On My Mind" was made the official state song for Georgia. 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. He received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986.
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. 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[disambiguation needed ], and inducted to the National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall of Fame. 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.
In 2003, Charles was awarded an honorary degree by Dillard University. Upon his death, he endowed a professorship of African-American culinary history at the school, which is the first such chair in the nation. A $20 million performing arts center at Morehouse College was named after Charles and was dedicated in September 2010.
The biopic Ray, released in October 2004, portrays his life and career between 1930 and 1979 and stars Jamie Foxx as Charles. Foxx won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Actor for the role.
Charles died on June 10, 2004 at 11:35 a.m. of alcoholic liver disease and hepatitis C 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.
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; this record was played at his memorial service.
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.
Ray Charles in 1990
|Birth name||Ray Charles Robinson|
|Born||September 23, 1930|
Albany, Georgia, United States
|Origin||Greenville, Florida, United States|
|Died||June 10, 2004 (aged 73)|
Beverly Hills, California, United States
|Genres||Rhythm and blues, soul, blues, soul blues, rock and roll, jazz, vocal jazz, country, pop, gospel|
|Occupations||Composer, musician, arranger,bandleader|
|Instruments||Vocals, piano, keyboards, alto saxophone, trombone|
|Labels||Atlantic, ABC, Warner Bros., Swing Time, Concord, Columbia, Flashback|
|Associated acts||The Raelettes, Quincy Jones, Betty Carter, Marvin Gaye, Billy Joel,James Brown, Little Richard|