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Ballad In Blue DVD Ray Charles plays (and sings as) himself in this touching 1964 tale. When he... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now

We Are The World: The Story Behind The... After the 1985 famine devastated the African continent, Ray Charles, Bruce... more info $12.98was $12.98 Buy Now

Carnegie Hall 100: A Place Of Dreams... All the great classic performances in the history of Carnegie Hall are yours to... more info $24.99was $24.99 Buy Now

Tom Dowd & The Language Of Music... A feature-length documentary profiling the life and work of a man whose personal... more info $26.97was $26.97 Buy Now

Spy Hard DVD Once again proving himself to be the king of parody film, Leslie Nielsen stars... more info $9.99was $9.99 Buy Now

Ray Charles With The Voices Of Jubilation... Sing and rejoice with Ray Charles. The 120-member Jubilation Gospel Choir of... more info $9.99was $9.99 Buy Now



Also Known As: Ray Charles Robinson, Robinson Died: June 10, 2004
Born: September 23, 1930 Cause of Death: complications from liver disease
Birth Place: Albany, Georgia, USA Profession: singer, pianist, songwriter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

"I was born with music inside me. That's the only explanation I know of," Ray Charles wrote in his 1978 autobiography, Brother Ray. "Music was one of my parts...like my blood... Like my blood. It was a force already with me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me, like food or water." As one of the most original American recording artists to emerge in the 20th century, Charles' music got into the blood of generations of admirers as well. His signature soul and R&B sounds-in such definitive Charles hits as "Georgia on My Mind," "You Don't Know Me," "Hit the Road Jack," "Unchain My Heart," "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "What'd I Say"--converged with his personal image as an artist of prodigious talent and infectious good spirits to help him overcome his physical handicap-though that, too, contributed to his enduring and distinctive image as a pop culture icon. Born Sept. 23, 1930, as Ray Charles Robinson (he later dropped the surname in deference to Sugar Ray Robinson) to a impoverished Depression-era family in the segregated South in Albany, Georgia, Charles was blind by age seven--possibly due to glaucoma, possibly not; he was never convinced of the diagnosis--and orphaned at 15, but...

"I was born with music inside me. That's the only explanation I know of," Ray Charles wrote in his 1978 autobiography, Brother Ray. "Music was one of my parts...like my blood... Like my blood. It was a force already with me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me, like food or water." As one of the most original American recording artists to emerge in the 20th century, Charles' music got into the blood of generations of admirers as well. His signature soul and R&B sounds-in such definitive Charles hits as "Georgia on My Mind," "You Don't Know Me," "Hit the Road Jack," "Unchain My Heart," "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "What'd I Say"--converged with his personal image as an artist of prodigious talent and infectious good spirits to help him overcome his physical handicap-though that, too, contributed to his enduring and distinctive image as a pop culture icon.

Born Sept. 23, 1930, as Ray Charles Robinson (he later dropped the surname in deference to Sugar Ray Robinson) to a impoverished Depression-era family in the segregated South in Albany, Georgia, Charles was blind by age seven--possibly due to glaucoma, possibly not; he was never convinced of the diagnosis--and orphaned at 15, but the extraodinary skills as a pianist he'd cultivated since age 3 prepared him for the music classes he's attend after he was send to the state-supported St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind, where he learned to read and write music in Braille, score for big bands and play many instruments by ear.

After graduating and working black dance halls, Charles moved to Seattle and began patterning himself after Nat "King" Cole (it was there he made nascent composer-arranger Quincy Jones, whom Charles taught to write music). Soon Charles developed his own signature style, a potent blend of gospel and R&B that soon was dubbed soul music (his music would later incorporate an even wider range of musical styles, including rock and roll, country, jazz, swing and blues). In the mid-1950s, he added a team of female backup singers dubbed the Raelettes, who provided responses like a gospel choir and they became a permanent part of his musical image. He impressed many with his first major hit release, "I Got a Woman," in 1955 and earned the nickname "The Genius of Soul," but it wasn't until 1959 that Charles really sent shockwaves through the music industry with his breakthrough hit "What'd I Say." That same year he introduced his first number one hit, a version of a song that would become a particular anthem for the singer: "Georgia On My Mind" (after Charles' popularization, his interpretation of the tune became the state's official song in 1979).

For the next several decades Charles would continue to score dozens of pop hits, spanning all manner of musical styles and seemingly appealing to all tastes-his fans disciples are as diverse as Sammy Davis, Jr., Billy J l, Willie Nelson and Clint Eastwood . He also became a familiar fixture on television, known for his impenetrably black sunglasses, dazzling smile, and enthusiastic side-to-side sway while playing. Out of the limelight, his personal life was less rosy: his incorrigible womanizing led to the demise of two marriages (he had nine children-possibly more-with his wives and other women), and he battled a heroin addiction for decades before finally kicking it cold turkey after an arrest in a Boston airport in 1964-it bothered him too much to have his fans think his music was merely the result of a narcotic.

He needn't have worried: as a pop music icon his successes would range from the sublime-his ascendant, emotional rendition of "America the Beautiful" would soon permeate the culture everywhere, from sporting events to political rallies-to the enjoyably silly-his ubiquitous "Uh-huh" Diet Pepsi ads were seemingly everywhere in the 1990s (he received a 1990 Clio Award as Best Male Performer for the ads).

Charles recorded over 60 albums, and his collection of hits and essentials includes "Hallelujah I Love Her So," "Drown In My Own Tears," "Swannee River Rock," "Hit the Road, Jack," "Unchain My Heart," "Busted," "I Can't Stop Lovin' You," "Mess Around," "I'm Movin' On" and "Seven Spanish Angels," a duet with Nelson.

Over the course of his career, Charles won 12 competitive Grammys, earned three Emmy nominations, scored the Kennedy Center Honors, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Medal of Arts and inductions into the Rock, Jazz and Rhythm and Blues halls of fame (he was one of the original inductees into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, with Quincy Jones presenting). He won nine of his dozen Grammys between 1960 and 1966, including the best R&B recording three consecutive years ("Hit the Road Jack," "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Busted"). His final Grammy came in 1993 for "A Song for You," which President Bill Clinton, who presented Charles that year with the National Medal of Arts, had cited as his favorite song.

The musician was a staple of television, performing on such series as "The Perry Como Show," "The Andy Williams Show," "The Flip Wilson Show," "Saturday Night Live," "The Tonight Show" and countless musical specials, especially with his unlikely late-life performing partner Willie Nelson. Other non-musical series-including "Who's the Boss," "Wings" and "Moonlighting"-tapped Charles to guest star as himself. As an actor he appeared as a homeless man on a 1987 episode of "St. Elsewhere," and in 1998 he had a recurring role as Sammy on Fran Drescher's hit CBS sitcom "The Nanny."

Charles was nominated for Emmys for his contributions to "The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1991) and "Irving Berlin's 100th Birthday Celebration" (1988), and for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music and Lyrics for "Bob Hope: The First 90 Years" (1993) (TV)-with famed jokewriter Buz Kohan as lyricist-for the song "Where There's Life, There's Hope."

Charles was also no stranger to the big screen: The 1966 film "Ballad in Blue," directed by Paul Heinreid, cast Charles as himself on a swinging European tour where he tries to help a blind boy meet a top Parisian eye specialist; the following year he sang the title theme for the Oscar winning film "In the Heat of the Night." Charles netted cult-movie immortality with his role as a blind but well-defended pawn shop proprietor in the 1980 musical-comedy "The Blues Brothers," starring his longtime fans John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. In the 1988 feature "Limit Up" he played the part of God. Charles also appeared as himself in the Warren Beatty-Annette Bening remake "Love Affair" (1994) and played a bus driver, to big laughs, in the 1996 spoof "Spy Hard" starring Leslie Neilson.

In addition, Charles' songs have enlivened and added mood to the soundtracks of many motion pictures, including "The Dream Team" (1989), "Sleepless In Seattle" (1993), "Bye Bye Love" (1995), "Eve's Bayou" (1997), "The Hurricane" (1999) and "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" (2002).

But the musician's amazing rags-to-riches life story proved even more dramatic than most cinematic fictions, and inspired the biopic "Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story" (2004) starring Jamie Foxx in the lead role, a project that was produced and filmed during Charles' lifetime. The Grammy winner's final public appearance was alongside his longtime friend and fan, actor Clint Eastwood, in April 2004, when the city of Los Angeles designated the singer's studios, built 40 years ago, as a historic landmark. He died in June of that year of liver failure following complications of hip surgery.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Ray (2004)
3.
 Spy Hard (1996) Bus Driver
4.
 Love Affair (1994) Himself
6.
 Listen Up (1990) Himself
7.
 Limit Up (1989) Julius
9.
 Blues Brothers, The (1980) Ray
10.
 Blues for Lovers (1966) Himself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Started playing the piano at the age of 3; began losing his sight about 5 years old and by the time he was 7, he was totally blind
1937:
Entered the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind as a charity student, studied classical piano and clarinet, and learned to read and write music in Braille
1945:
Left school at the age of 15, and joined dance bands in Florida
1947:
Formed the McSon Trio with two other musicians, a group modeled on the Nat King Cole jazz group; signed with the Swingtime label, and recorded their first single, "Confession Blues," which Charles wrote
1951:
The McSon Trio released several singles including "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand," which hit the U.S. R&B chart
1952:
Signed with Atlantic Records and began recording and touring regularly
1953:
Played piano on Guitar Slim's "The Things That I Used to Do," which sold more than a million copies
1959:
Had a top 10 hit, "What'd I Say," which led to an appearance at New York's Carnegie Hall, and a contract from ABC-Paramount Records
1962:
Released an album of country music, "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music," which broke new ground by combining soul and country music
1965:
Contributed to the soundtracks of two major films, "The Cincinnati Kid" (1965) and "In The Heat of the Night" (1967)
1966:
Released the hits "Crying Time," and his final R&B No. 1, "Let's Go Get Stoned"
1980:
Made a cameo appearance as himself in "The Blues Brothers" which starred John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd
1982:
Was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame
1984:
Made a successful return to country music with the release of "Friendship," an album of duets
1985:
Contributed to the historic "We Are The World" recording to benefit USA for Africa, which raised many millions to help feed Africa's starving
1986:
January, 1986, became one of the original inductees into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
1988:
Appeared for the first time with the New York City Ballet, which choreographed dances to some of his classics
1990:
Made appearances in the Diet Pepsi TV ads, along with his Rayettes; making a catchphrase of "You've got the right one baby, uh-huh."; was named the best commercial in the world
2002:
Released "Thanks For Bringing Love Around Again" which included a new version of his first big pop success, 'What I'd Say'
2004:
Released final album "Genius Loves Company," a CD of duets with such performers as Elton John, Norah Jones and Willie Nelson is released a few months after his death; received seven Grammy nominations
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

St Augustine School for the Blind: St Augustine , Florida -

Notes

In 1964, Ray Charles was arrested on drug charges and checked into a rehab center for heroin addiction

"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 to the Washington Post 1983

In 1979, Ray Charles' classic rendition of "Georgia On My Mind" was approved as the official Song of the State of Georgia.

December 16, 1981, Ray Charles received a Star on Hollywood Boulevard's "Walk of Fame"

In April, 1987, Ray Charles announced the formation of the (Ray Charles) Robinson Foundation for Hearing Disorders, with a personal endowment of $1 million

"Mr. Charles was conscious and engaged almost to the end, and wanted the world to know that he will miss the chance to entertain his many family and friends, as he had done, up until last summer, for the past 58 years."---Charles' manager Joe Adams tvguide.com June 11, 2004

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Della Beatrice Howard. Married April 5, 1955; divorced 1977.
wife:
Elieen Williams. Married July 31, 1951; divorced 1952.

Family close complete family listing

mother:
Aretha Robinson. Worked in a sawmill; died by the time Charles turned 15 .
father:
Bailey Robinson. Railroad worker. Died by the time Charles turned 15 .
son:
David Robinson. Second son born c. 1958; mother, Della Bea Howard Robinson.
son:
Robert Robinson. Third son born c. 1960; mother, Della Bea Howard Robinson.
son:
Charles Wayne Robinson. Fourth son born c. 1959; mother, Margie Hendricks a member of the Raelets.
brother:
George. Younger brother; drowned when Ray was 5, an event Charles witnessed. George had fallen into a tub and Ray tried to pull him out, but he was too heavy.
daughter:
Sheila. Born c. 1963; mother Sandra Jean Betts; Charles contested paternity but court ordered him to pay support.
daughter:
Retha. Named after Charles' mother.
daughter:
Robin.
son:
Vincent. Born c. 1977; mother, Arlette Kotchounian.
daughter:
Alexandra.
daughter:
Corey.
daughter:
Evelyn Robinson. First child born c. 1950; mother, Louise Mitchell.
son:
Ray Charles Robinson Jr. First son born c. 1955; mother, Della Bea Howard Robinson.
daughter:
Raenee Robinson-McClelan. Born c. 1961; mother, Mae Mosely Lyles a member of the Raelets.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Brother Ray" Dial Press

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