Talk:Ray Charles

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" In 1980, he made a cameo on the film, The Blues Brothers."[edit]

I don't think this qualifies as a cameo. The character played by Ray has an appearance of several minutes, gets to say quite a number of lines and even performs a song visualised with a major dance sequence. I'll change that sentence. SchnitteUK (talk) 10:21, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

General remarks[edit]

No mention of Charles playing with Lowell Fulson? (talk) 17:35, 25 May 2011 (UTC)

This Ray Charles page has a lot of merit, but it also holds some awkward mistakes, and it suffers from numerous omissions. I am an expert. I have tried a few times to edit the text, but never saw my corrections accepted. What do I have to do to get my suggestions for improvements assessed and accepted? bob@result.comBstumpel (talk) 13:07, 15 September 2011 (UTC)

As has already been explained to you on your talk page with a notice in June 2011 as well as the Wikipedia Welcome list of links and articles that concern the how-to of editing Wikipedia, there are standards that need to be adhered to. If you haven't done it yet, do read the list of articles that give tips and advice on how to edit Wikipedia. If you follow those guidelines, your edits are less-likely to be reverted. Thanks for your interested in helping to build the online encyclopedia that is Wikipedia. Lhb1239 (talk) 14:47, 15 September 2011 (UTC)


The "Signature of Ray Charles" in this article is and SVG file created by a Commons user. Put mildly, it probably isn't Charles' actual handwriting. I am being bold and removing it. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 11:04, 12 October 2011 (UTC)


The main photo in this article says 'Ray Charles in 2012' which is not possible as he died in 2004 which the article also states. I would consider changing that. I don't know if it's a statue or anything but if it is you could have at least put 'Statue of Ray Charles in 2012' or change the picture. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:23, 7 March 2012 (UTC)


In Early life, this sentence appears:

>Pit would care for George, Ray's brother, so as to take the burden off Williams.

There is no explanation for what "Williams" refers to. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:40, 4 June 2012 (UTC)

Aretha Williams was RC's mother, according to the cited sources. I tried to make this clear with my edits today. (talk) 22:06, 17 December 2012 (UTC)

death date is incorrect[edit]

Ray Charles Robinson (September (FIND SOME WHERE ELSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), 1930 – September 17, 2004)

It should be June 10, 2004.

Please correct. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jeffcampbell22 (talkcontribs) 19:06, 17 September 2012 (UTC)

Synthesiser details?[edit]

RC is seen on TV in concert playing a keyboard that makes various sounds, one of which perfectly evokes (former Atlantic stablemate) Milt Jackson's vibraphone. Anyone have any details about this? Rothorpe (talk) 19:37, 30 September 2012 (UTC)

Musical note "ev"?[edit]

A block quote in the article contains "in the high tenor range of A, B flat, B, C and ev". Don't think "ev" is a musical note. Anybody know and can fix? David F (talk) 18:15, 17 February 2013 (UTC)

Charles and Newborn, and Newborn[edit]

Allmusic credits Phineas Newborn, Jr. for playing piano at Ray Charles at Newport [1]. That's a mistake, right? Calvin Newborn is also claimed in WP to have collaborated with RC, did he? trespassers william (talk) 01:54, 10 March 2013 (UTC)

Reference to Turdle in Early Life?[edit]

What its this reference to Turdle running the cash register? Is that a nickname our someone goofing? (talk) 22:12, 3 January 2014 (UTC)

It was vandalism. Thanks for pointing it out. It has now been corrected. --Onorem (talk) 22:18, 3 January 2014 (UTC)

Cornell University Assignment[edit]


We're a student group at Cornell and will be working to improve the contents of this article. Specifically, we are looking to do a few things. First, we plan to edit the writing of the article to make it clearer and more understandable. We are also looking to restructure the article so the categories are manageable and it is simple to navigate the page. For example, there is a section titled "Georgia" that should not be its own topic. We will be including this in the personal life section of the article. Additionally, we've identified specific topics that could be either expanded or added to the page. Ray Charles has had a significant impact on the modern music and entertainment industries and as young consumers of such industries, we have access to information about impacts on specific artists like Amy Winehouse. We would also like to add information about his role in interracial tensions in the United States, his struggles with substance abuse and his childrens' feud over his legacy and fortune.

We would love input and suggestions from any members of the Wikipedia community who have been working on this page or are knowledgeable about this topic.

This is the link to our class page: Abdavis329 (talk) 18:35, 13 September 2014 (UTC)

Specifically regarding his impact on modern music, we recognize that there is already some information in the introduction section. We are looking to expand on this and talk about different artists that have attributed some of their success to Charles or who claim their music has been influenced by his.

Initial Sources[edit]

(This is an article about Charles's death and the ways he influenced modern music)

  • We plan to use this article to discuss the impact that Ray Charles had on other artist’s music and genres of music. In particular, there is a quote by Joe Levy of the Rolling Stone that highlights this impact. Skylerd23 (talk) 03:01, 18 September 2014 (UTC)
  • This is an article about the movie Ray starring Jamie Foxx, about the life of Ray Charles.Skylerd23 (talk) 18:53, 13 September 2014 (UTC)
  • A bibliography on Ray Charles that will be a good source for background information and more general topics.
  • We plan on using Ray Charles: man and music by M. Lydon to explain Ray Charles' struggles with heroin abuse and his experiences growing up with a life-altering handicap.
  • The above image of Ray Charles is of him standing in the driveway of his Los Angeles home with his wife Della and sons Robert, 5, David, 7, and Ray Jr. 11. The quote that goes with the picture is as follows: "I don't need to see them to know what they look like,' he says. 'I know my wife is pretty, and I think my sons are pretty good boys." We would like to add the picture to the Personal Life section, Family sub-section.Abdavis329 (talk) 17:33, 18 September 2014 (UTC)
Unfortunately, we couldn't do this because we were not granted access to use the picture. Skylerd23 (talk) 04:09, 9 October 2014 (UTC)
  • This is an NPR article that discusses Ray Charles and his death and includes some information about his heroin addiction. Skylerd23 (talk) 01:34, 16 September 2014 (UTC)
  • This article discusses the legal battle among Ray Charles' children over his legacy and fortune.

Abdavis329 (talk) 09:07, 16 September 2014 (UTC)

Second Round of Sources[edit]

  • This article explains the Ray Charles Foundation's goals to properly allocate donations. fr237 (talk) 10:56, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
  • This article talks about the opening of the official Ray Charles Memorial Library in LA fr237 (talk) 10:58, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
  • This article explains how the State University of New York at Albany kept Foundation donations for a decade without proper spending. fr237 (talk) 10:59, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
  • This article explains the fight between Family and Foundation fr237 (talk) 11:04, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
  • This article explains the influence of Ray Charles on modern today pop culture and society as a whole fr237 (talk) 11:11, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
Looks like you've got some good sources there. But please make sure everything you add is notable. Rothorpe (talk) 19:09, 18 September 2014 (UTC)
Good work, @Skylerd23, @Fr237, and @Abdavis329. Here are couple of suggestions for you to improve the article:
a) The first link for initial sources is not appropriate on the talk page. Cornell Library's retrieval link may not be cited. Also, check the alignment of the bullet points there.
b) The restructuring part is good.
c) Why don't you check the article on Louis Jordan (which is B-class) to get more idea on how to improve your article?
d) Make sure you summarize while committing the changes.
IshtiaqueAhmedCornell (talk) 04:29, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

I'm not entirely convinced you should be using Louis Jordan as a guide, as suggested above. The Jordan article shouldn't even be a B Class article IMO as it contains a lot of unsourced information, an over long lead section and poorly written prose. My advice would be to skip that and go to WP:FA and pick a similar subject for you to learn from. Cassiantotalk 07:43, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

  • I'd concur with Cassianto here. Aim for the best and you won't be steered wrong. First, let me say you guys have done an excellent job in your research. The first step in writing a great article is doing your research first, before you even start to write. High quality sources are always a great resource, and you all have found them! As far as looking for articles to use for modeling organization and style, Wikipedia:Featured_articles lists our best content. If you go down to the section titled "Music biographies" you'll find dozens of great models to work from. There are musical artists from a wide array of genres and styles, and by looking through some of those, you should get a sense of how to set this article up for success. A good start. If you need any specific help or have and specific questions, feel free to ping me and I'll stop by and take a look. --Jayron32 21:14, 2 October 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the feedback!! Skylerd23 (talk) 04:13, 9 October 2014 (UTC)

Legacy Block Quote[edit]

I removed the second paragraph of the block quote in the legacy section because the quote was too long for readability and the second paragraph did not add much about Charles' legacy. The information in that paragraph was more about his musical style. Skylerd23 (talk) 22:16, 24 September 2014 (UTC)


I adjusted the structure of the article so that all the "life" information is together instead of scattered across early life and personal life with career in between those two section. Skylerd23 (talk) 20:31, 28 September 2014 (UTC)

You had Death before Career. I don't thnk that's normal for biographies on Wikipedia. Rothorpe (talk) 20:52, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
No problem. I'm going to make the structural change again but with death as a section after Career. Does that work? Skylerd23 (talk) 21:08, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes. Deaths normally follow careers. Rothorpe (talk) 21:11, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
I made the edit. Let me know if there are still any issues with it. Thanks for helping us out! Skylerd23 (talk) 21:19, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
Pleasure. Looking around, seems I'm justified in thinking that Personal life usually follows Career (and by the way, please use sentence case in article subheadings, no unwarranted capitals). Rothorpe (talk) 21:29, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
To the students who are restructuring this article: you can visit this link to see how to correctly layout a biography. Cassiantotalk 21:55, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the suggestion, but it seems to me like different artists have different layouts. For the page on Elvis Presley (a featured article) it groups life and career as one major section and then has subsections to that. We could make this change on this article but it would require moving a lot of information around. Thoughts?Skylerd23 (talk) 22:28, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes, some FAs will be different to others, but essentially, all are correct (hence their status). There is no *correct* way in laying out an article so it is for you to choose how to do it. I have written over 20 featured articles and all of mine adopt a chronological order, mixing career and personal life into one. I usually start of with a level two header saying "Biography" and then follow this with a level three headers for each major event in his or her life. In between, I use level four headers for not so important events. If you take a look at my latest featured article George Robey you will see what I mean. Having said that, my first featured article Stanley Holloway had a "personal life" section which kept his personal life seperate from the rest of his career. Looking back, and although it is a bit more difficult to write, I prefer the Robey layout, so in future I will always use this. Cassiantotalk 05:11, 29 September 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for all of the input. See the new heading I made explaining my latest restructure Skylerd23 (talk) 21:07, 30 September 2014 (UTC)

Latest Restructure[edit]

Taking into account the opinions of other Wikipedians and after reviewing featured articles on other artists, I have grouped life and career together. Skylerd23 (talk) 21:07, 30 September 2014 (UTC)

Song Chart[edit]

I'll be adding a chart which will list all of Ray Charles' songs.Abdavis329 (talk) 02:30, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

That's not necessarily a good idea. We already have Ray Charles discography, into which the songs would fit better. Notable songs could be covered, but only if you have fairly tight criteria to justify inclusion (i.e. major chart successes or those which one awards). Without the criteria then it becomes a dumping ground for songs people have heard of, it will become overly bloated and then someone will delete it for being pointless as it stands. - SchroCat (talk) 19:15, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

Peer Feedback[edit]

Content: One of the things you can do in terms of content is to edit the first intro paragraph before you hit the table of contents. There are a couple syntax and grammatical errors that you can edit. It would also be great if you can add some original content to the article itselfVmdavid (talk) 18:34, 2 October 2014 (UTC)
Organization and Style
Sources - More sources are needed in the personal life and substance abuse sections as per your proposal. Sources are needed to substantiate claims on influences on abuse to avoid legal problems. Also, a source should be listed after his arrest in 1964. This should be a quick find. Good luck! Dmh265 (talk) 18:36, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

— Preceding unsigned comment added by Vmdavid (talkcontribs) 18:16, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

Thank you for your feedback. We did edit the first intro paragraph and added a large amount of original content to the article. It may be difficult for someone unfamiliar with the article to recognize these changes, but you can compare the current article with a past version to see this. We will definitely look through the article and make further grammatical corrections. We also added information about substance abuse from Ray Charles: Man and Music, which is a reliable source to substantiate our claims. We will be sure to add a citation for his arrest in 1964. Thanks again!Abdavis329 (talk) 20:46, 7 October 2014 (UTC)

12 children by 10 different women?[edit]

The article says he had 3 children with second wife Della , then had 2 children with his 6 year affair. That leaves 7 children left to have by 8 women- the math is all wrong here as well as the facts. (talk) 00:46, 7 September 2015 (UTC)

ray charles[edit]

Ray Charles

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This article is about the rhythm and blues singer. For other uses, see Ray Charles (disambiguation).

Ray Charles

Ray Charles (cropped).jpg Ray Charles in 1990

Background information

Birth name Raymond Charles Robinson

Born September 23, 1930 Albany, Georgia, U.S.[1]

Origin Greenville, Florida, U.S.

Died June 10, 2004 (aged 73) Beverly Hills, California, U.S.


R&B ·

soul · 
blues · 
gospel · 
country · 
jazz · 
pop · 
rock and roll

Occupation(s) Musician, singer, songwriter, composer

Instruments Vocals, piano, keyboards

Years active 1947–2004

Labels Atlantic, ABC, Warner Bros., Swing Time, Concord, Columbia, Flashback

Associated acts The Raelettes, USA for Africa, Billy Joel, Gladys Knight


Raymond Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004), professionally known as Ray Charles, was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer. He was sometimes referred to as "The Genius",[2][3] and was also nicknamed "The High Priest of Soul".[4]

He pioneered the genre of soul music during the 1950s by combining rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles into the music he recorded for Atlantic Records.[5][6][7] He also contributed to the racial integration of country and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, most notably with his two Modern Sounds albums.[8][9][10] While he was with ABC, Charles became one of the first African-American musicians to be granted artistic control by a mainstream record company.[6]

Charles was blind from the age of seven. Charles cited Nat King Cole as a primary influence, but his music was also influenced by jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, and country artists of the day, including Art Tatum, Louis Jordan, Charles Brown, and Louis Armstrong.[11] Charles' playing reflected influences from country blues, barrelhouse, and stride piano styles. He had strong ties to Quincy Jones, who often cared for him and showed him the ropes of the "music club industry."

Frank Sinatra called him "the only true genius in show business", although Charles downplayed this notion.[12]

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Charles at number ten on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time",[2] and number two on their November 2008 list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time".[13] Billy Joel observed: "This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley".[14]

Contents [hide] 1 Life and career 1.1 1930–45: Early years 1.2 1945–52: Life in Florida, Los Angeles, Seattle and first hits 1.3 1952–59: Signing with Atlantic Records 1.4 1959–67: Crossover success 1.5 1967–83: Commercial decline 1.6 1983–2004: Later years

2 Death 3 Personal life 3.1 Substance abuse and legal issues 3.2 Other interests

4 Legacy 4.1 Influence on music industry 4.2 Awards and honors 4.3 Contribution to civil rights movement 4.4 The Ray Charles Foundation

5 Discography 6 Filmography 7 Television 8 References 9 Bibliography 10 External links

Life and career[edit]

1930–45: Early years[edit]

Ray Charles statue in Greenville, Florida

Raymond Charles Robinson was the son of Aretha (née William) Robinson,[15] a sharecropper, and Bailey Robinson, a railroad repair man, mechanic, and handyman.[16] When Charles was an infant, his family moved from his birthplace in Albany, Georgia back to his mother's hometown of Greenville, Florida.

Charles had little contact with his father growing up, and it is unclear whether his mother and father were ever married. Charles was raised by his biological mother Aretha, as well as his father’s first wife, a woman named Mary Jane. Growing up, he referred to Aretha as "Mama", and Mary Jane as "mother".[11] Aretha was a devout Christian, and the family attended the New Shiloh Baptist Church.[15]

In his early years, Charles showed a curiosity for mechanical objects, and would often watch his neighbors working on their cars and farm machinery. His musical curiosity was sparked at Mr. Wylie Pitman's Red Wing Cafe, at the age of 3, when Pitman played boogie woogie on an old upright piano; Pitman subsequently taught Charles how to play piano himself. Charles and his mother were always welcome at the Red Wing Cafe, and even lived there when they were experiencing financial difficulties.[11] Pitman would also care for Ray's brother George, to take the burden off Aretha. George drowned in Aretha's laundry tub when he was four years old, and Ray was five.[11][16] Charles started to lose his sight at the age of four[3] or five,[17] and was completely blind by the age of seven, apparently as a result of glaucoma.[18] Broke, uneducated and still mourning the loss of Charles' brother George, Aretha used her connections in the local community to find a school that would accept blind African American students. Despite his initial protest, Charles would attend school at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine from 1937 to 1945.[19]

Charles began to develop his musical talent at school,[18] and was taught to play the classical piano music of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. His teacher Mrs. Lawrence taught him how to read music using braille, a difficult process that requires learning the left hand movements by reading braille with the right hand and learning the right hand movements by reading braille with the left hand, and then synthesizing the two parts. While Charles was happy to play the piano, he was more interested in the jazz and blues music he heard on the family radio than classical music.[19] On Fridays, the South Campus Literary Society held assemblies where Charles would play piano and sing popular songs. On Halloween and George Washington's birthday, the black Department of the school had socials where Charles would play. It was here he established "RC Robinson and the Shop Boys" and sang his own arrangement of "Jingle Bell Boogie". During this time, he performed on WFOY radio in St. Augustine.[19]

Aretha died in the spring of 1945, when Charles was 15 years old. Her death came as a shock to Ray, who would later consider the deaths of his brother and mother to be "the two great tragedies" of his life. Charles returned to school after the funeral, but was then expelled in October for playing a prank on his teacher.[19]

1945–52: Life in Florida, Los Angeles, Seattle and first hits[edit]

After leaving school, Charles moved to Jacksonville with a couple who were friends of his mother. He played the piano for bands at the Ritz Theatre in LaVilla for over a year, earning $4 a night. He also joined the musicians’ union in the hope that it would help him get work. He befriended many union members, but others were less kind to him because he would monopolize the union hall’s piano, since he did not have one at home. He started to build a reputation as a talented musician in Jacksonville, but the jobs did not come fast enough for him to construct a strong identity. He decided to leave Jacksonville and move to a bigger city with more opportunities.[20]

At age 16, Charles moved to Orlando, where he lived in borderline poverty and went without food for days. It was an extremely difficult time for musicians to find work, as since World War II had ended there were no “G.I. Joes” left to entertain. Charles eventually started to write arrangements for a pop music band, and in the summer of 1947 he unsuccessfully auditioned to play piano for Lucky Millinder and his sixteen-piece band.[19]

In 1947, Charles moved to Tampa, where he had two jobs: one as a pianist for Charles Brantley's Honeydippers,[21] a seven-piece band; and another as a member of a white country band called The Florida Playboys (though there is no historical trace of Charles' involvement in The Florida Playboys besides Charles' own testimony). This is where he began his habit of always wearing sunglasses, made by designer Billy Stickles. In his early career, he modeled himself on Nat "King" Cole. His first four recordings—"Wondering and Wondering", "Walking and Talking", "Why Did You Go?" and "I Found My Baby There"—were supposedly made in Tampa, although some discographies also claim he recorded them in Miami in 1951, or Los Angeles in 1952.[19]

Charles had always played piano for other people, but he was keen to have his own band. He decided to leave Florida for a large city, and, considering Chicago and New York City too big, followed his friend Gossie McKee to Seattle, Washington in March 1948, knowing that the biggest radio hits came from northern cities.[22][23] Here he met and befriended, under the tutelage of Robert Blackwell, a 15-year-old Quincy Jones.[24]

He started playing the one-to-five A.M. shift at the Rocking Chair with his band McSon Trio, which featured McKee on guitar and Milton Garrett on bass. Publicity photos of the trio are some of the earliest recorded photographs of Ray Charles. In April 1949, Charles and his band recorded "Confession Blues", which became his first national hit, soaring to the second spot on the Billboard R&B chart.[23] While still working at the Rocking Chair, he also arranged songs for other artists, including Cole Porter's "Ghost of a Chance" and Dizzy Gillespie's "Emanon".[20] After the success of his first two singles, Charles moved to Los Angeles in 1950, and spent the next few years touring with blues artist Lowell Fulson as his musical director.[3]

In 1950, his performance in a Miami hotel would impress Henry Stone, who went on to record a Ray Charles Rockin' record (which never became particularly popular). During his stay in Miami, Charles was required to stay in the segregated but thriving black community of Overtown. Stone later helped Jerry Wexler find Charles in St. Petersburg.[25]

After joining Swing Time Records, he recorded two more R&B hits under the name "Ray Charles": "Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand" (1951), which reached number five; and "Kissa Me Baby"(1952), which reached number eight. Swing Time folded the following year, and Ahmet Ertegün signed him to Atlantic Records.[18]

1952–59: Signing with Atlantic Records[edit]

Question book-new.svg

This section relies largely or entirely upon a single source. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please help improve this article by introducing citations to additional sources. (April 2015) 

In June 1952, Atlantic Records bought Ray's contract for $2,500.[26] Charles' first recording session with Atlantic ("The Midnight Hour"/"Roll With my Baby") took place in September 1952, although his last Swingtime release ("Misery in my Heart"/"The Snow is Falling") would not appear until February 1953. He began recording jump blues and boogie-woogie style recordings as well as slower blues ballads, in which he continued to show the vocal influences of Nat "King" Cole and Charles Brown. "Mess Around" became Charles' first Atlantic hit in 1953; the following year he had hits with "It Should Have Been Me" and "Don't You Know," which became his first chart success for Atlantic.[26] He also recorded the songs "Midnight Hour" and "Sinner's Prayer." Some elements of his own vocal style were evident in "Sinner's Prayer," "Mess Around," and "Don't You Know".[citation needed]

Late in 1954, Charles recorded his own composition "I Got a Woman"; the song became one of his most notable hits, reached number two on the R&B chart.[26] "I Got a Woman" included a mixture of gospel, jazz and blues elements that would later prove to be seminal in the development of rock 'n' roll and soul music. In 1955, he had hits "This Little Girl of Mine" and "A Fool for You". In upcoming years, he scored with "I'll Drown in My Own Tears" and "Hallelujah, I Love Her So." By 1959, Ray Charles reached the Billboard Top Ten with "What'd I Say" which made him a major figure in R&B.[26]

Parallel to his R&B career, Charles also recorded instrumental jazz albums such as 1957's The Great Ray Charles. During this time, Charles also worked with jazz vibraphonist Milt Jackson, releasing Soul Brothers in 1958 and Soul Meeting in 1961. By 1958, Charles was not only headlining black venues such as The Apollo Theater and The Uptown Theater, but also bigger venues such as The Newport Jazz Festival (where he would cut his first live album). In 1956, Charles recruited a young all-female singing group named the Cookies, and reshaped them as The Raelettes. Up to this point, Charles had used his wife and other musicians to back him on recordings such as "This Little Girl of Mine" and "Drown In My Own Tears". The Raelettes' first recording session with Charles was on the bluesy-gospel inflected "Leave My Woman Alone".[citation needed]

1959–67: Crossover success[edit]

See also: What'd I Say and Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music

Charles in 1971. Photo: Heinrich Klaffs.

Charles reached the pinnacle of his success at Atlantic with the release of "What'd I Say", a complex song that combined gospel, jazz, blues and Latin music, which Charles would later claim he had composed spontaneously as he was performing in clubs and dances with his small band. Despite some radio stations banning the song because of its sexually suggestive lyrics, the song became Charles' first ever crossover top ten pop record.[27] Later in 1959, he released his first country song (a cover of Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On"), as well as recording three more albums for the label: a jazz record (later released in 1961 as The Genius After Hours); a blues record (released in 1961 as The Genius Sings the Blues); and a traditional pop/big band record (The Genius of Ray Charles). The Genius of Ray Charles provided his first top 40 album entry, where it peaked at No. 17, and was later held as a landmark record in Charles' career.[citation needed]

Charles' Atlantic contract expired in the fall of 1959, with several big labels offered him record deals; choosing not to renegotiate his contract with Atlantic, Ray Charles signed with ABC-Paramount Records in November 1959.[28] He obtained a much more liberal contract than other artists had at the time, with ABC offering him a $50,000 annual advance, higher royalties than before and eventual ownership of his masters—a very valuable and lucrative deal at the time.[29] During his Atlantic years, Charles had been heralded for his own inventive compositions, but by the time of the release of the instrumental jazz LP Genius + Soul = Jazz (1960) for ABC's subsidiary label Impulse!, he had virtually given up on writing original material, instead following his eclectic impulses as an interpreter.[27]

With "Georgia on My Mind", his first hit single for ABC-Paramount in 1960, Charles received national acclaim and four Grammy Awards, including two for "Georgia on My Mind": Best Vocal Performance Single Record or Track, Male and Best Performance by a Pop Single Artist. Originally written by composers Stuart Gorrell and Hoagy Carmichael, the song was Charles' first work with Sid Feller, who produced, arranged and conducted the recording.[27][30] Charles earned another Grammy for the follow-up "Hit the Road Jack", written by R&B singer Percy Mayfield.[31]

By late 1961, Charles had expanded his small road ensemble to a full-scale big band, partly as a response to increasing royalties and touring fees, becoming one of the few black artists to crossover into mainstream pop with such a level of creative control.[27][32] This success, however, came to a momentary halt during a concert tour in November 1961, when a police search of Charles' hotel room in Indianapolis, Indiana, led to the discovery of heroin in his medicine cabinet. The case was eventually dropped, as the search lacked a proper warrant by the police, and Charles soon returned to music.[32]

In the early 1960s, whilst on the way from Louisiana to Oklahoma City, Charles faced a near-death experience when the pilot of his plane lost visibility, as snow and his failure to use defroster caused the windshield of the plane to become completely covered in ice. The pilot made a few circles in the air before he was finally able to see through a small part of the windshield and land the plane. Charles placed a spiritual interpretation on the event, claiming that "something or someone which instruments cannot detect" was responsible for creating the small opening in the ice on the windshield which enabled the pilot to land the plane safely.[11]

The 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, and its sequel Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 2, helped to bring country into the musical mainstream. Charles' version of the Don Gibson song I Can't Stop Loving You topped the Pop chart for five weeks, stayed at No. 1 in the R&B chart for ten weeks, and also gave him his only number one record in the UK. In 1962, he founded his own record label, Tangerine Records, which ABC-Paramount promoted and distributed.[33][34] He had major pop hits in 1963 with "Busted" (US No. 4) and Take These Chains From My Heart (US No. 8).[citation needed]

In 1965, Charles' career was halted once more after being arrested for a third time for heroin use. He agreed to go to rehab to avoid jail time, and eventually kicked his habit at a clinic in Los Angeles. After spending a year on parole, Charles reappeared in the charts in 1966 with a series of hits composed with the fledgling team of Ashford & Simpson, including the dance number "I Don't Need No Doctor", and "Let's Go Get Stoned", which became his first No. 1 R&B hit in several years. His cover of country artist Buck Owens' "Crying Time" reached No. 6 on the pop chart and helped Charles win a Grammy Award the following March. In 1967, he had a top twenty hit with another ballad, "Here We Go Again".[35]

1967–83: Commercial decline[edit]

Ray Charles in 1968

1972 meeting of President Nixon and Ray Charles taken by Oliver F. Atkins

Charles' renewed chart success, however, proved to be short lived, and by the late 1960s his music was rarely played on radio stations. The rise of psychedelic rock and harder forms of rock and R&B music had reduced Charles' radio appeal, as did his choosing to record pop standards and covers of contemporary rock and soul hits, since his earnings from owning his own masters had taken away the motivation to write new material. Charles nonetheless continued to have an active recording career, although most of his recordings between 1968 and 1973 evoked strong reactions: people either liked them a lot, or strongly disliked them.[18] His 1972 album, A Message from the People, included his unique gospel-influenced version of "America the Beautiful", as well as a number of protest songs about poverty and civil rights. Charles was often criticized for his version of "America the Beautiful" because it was very drastically changed from the song's original version. The common argument against this is that the words are scattered and changed, but the music in the background remains beautiful and untouched. Many people believed that this was a perfect representation of the freedom Americans are given, free to do what they want, so long as they follow the laws (music) that we are given.[36]

In 1974, Charles left ABC Records and recorded several albums on his own Crossover Records label. A 1975 recording of Stevie Wonder's hit "Living for the City" later helped Charles win another Grammy. In 1977, he reunited with Ahmet Ertegün and re-signed to Atlantic Records, where he recorded the album True to Life, remaining with his old label until 1980. However, the label had now begun to focus on rock acts, and some of their prominent soul artists such as Aretha Franklin were starting to be neglected. In November 1977 he appeared as the host of NBC's Saturday Night Live.[37] In April 1979, Charles' version of "Georgia On My Mind" was proclaimed the state song of Georgia, and an emotional Charles performed the song on the floor of the state legislature.[18] Although he had notably supported the American Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s, in 1981 Charles was criticized for performing at South Africa's Sun City resort during an international boycott of its apartheid policy.[18]

1983–2004: Later years[edit]

Ray Charles (North Sea Jazz Festival 1983)

Charles with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan in 1984

One of his last public performances, at the 2003 Montreal International Jazz Festival

In 1983, Charles signed a contract with Columbia Records. He recorded a string of country albums, as well as having single hits with duet singers such as George Jones, Chet Atkins, B.J. Thomas, Mickey Gilley, Hank Williams, Jr., Dee Dee Bridgewater ("Precious Thing") and lifelong friend Willie Nelson, with whom he recorded the No. 1 country duet "Seven Spanish Angels".[citation needed]

Prior to the release of his first Warner release, Would You Believe, Charles made a return to the R&B charts with a cover of The Brothers Johnson's "I'll Be Good to You", a duet with his lifelong friend Quincy Jones and singer Chaka Khan which hit number-one on the R&B charts in 1990 and won Charles and Khan a Grammy for their dual work. Prior to this, Charles returned to the pop charts in another duet, with singer Billy Joel on the song "Baby Grand". In 1989, he recorded a cover of the Southern All Stars' "Itoshi no Ellie" for a Japanese TV advert for the Suntory brand, releasing it in Japan as "Ellie My Love" where it reached No. 3 on its Oricon chart.[38]

Charles's 1993 album, My World, became his first album in some time to reach the Billboard 200, whilst his cover of Leon Russell's "A Song for You" would give him a hit on the adult contemporary chart as well as his twelfth and final Grammy. By the beginning of the 1980s, Charles was reaching younger audiences with appearances in various films and TV shows. In 1980, he appeared in the film The Blues Brothers. Charles' version of "Night Time is the Right Time" was played during the popular Cosby Show episode "Happy Anniversary", although he never appeared on the show in person. In 1985, he appeared alongside a slew of other popular musicians in the USA for Africa charity recording "We Are the World". Charles's popularity increased among younger audiences in 1991 after he appeared in a series of Diet Pepsi commercials, where he popularized the catchphrase "You Got the Right One, Baby". Two more slickly-produced adult contemporary albums followed, Strong Love Affair (1996) and Thanks for Bringing Love Around Again (2002) although both failed to chart and were soon forgotten.

In the late 1980s/early 1990s, he made appearances on the Super Dave Osbourne television show, featuring in a series of vignettes where he was somehow driving a car, often as Super Dave's chauffeur. During the sixth season of Designing Women, Charles himself sang "Georgia on My Mind" in place of the instrumental cover version which had featured in the previous five seasons. He also appeared in 4 episodes of the popular TV comedy The Nanny, playing Sammy in Seasons 4 & 5 during 1997–98. From 2001–02, Charles appeared in commercials for the New Jersey Lottery to promote its "For every dream, there's a jackpot" campaign.[citation needed]

Charles appeared at two separate Presidential inaugurations, performing for Ronald Reagan's second inauguration in 1985, and for Bill Clinton's first in 1993.[39] On October 28, 2001, several weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, Charles appeared during Game 2 of the World Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees and performed "America the Beautiful". In 2003, Charles headlined the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, DC, attended by the President, First Lady, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.[citation needed]

Also in 2003, Charles presented one of his greatest admirers, Van Morrison, with his award upon being inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the two sang Morrison's song "Crazy Love" (the performance appears on Morrison's 2007 album The Best of Van Morrison Volume 3). Lastly in 2003, Charles performed "Georgia On My Mind" and "America the Beautiful" at a televised annual electronic media journalist banquet held in Washington, D.C. His final public appearance came on April 30, 2004, at the dedication of his music studio as a historic landmark in Los Angeles.[18]


In 2003, Charles had successful hip replacement surgery and was planning to go back on tour, until he began suffering from other ailments. He died at his home in Beverly Hills, California, on June 10, 2004, surrounded by family and friends,[40][41] as a result of acute liver disease.[3] He was 73 years old. His funeral took place on June 18, 2004, at the First AME Church in Los Angeles with numerous musical figures in attendance.[42] B.B. King, Glen Campbell, Stevie Wonder and Wynton Marsalis each played a tribute at Charles's funeral.[43] He was interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery.

Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6777 Hollywood Blvd

His final album, Genius Loves Company, was released two months after his death, and 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 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 with Johnny Mathis, which was played at Charles' memorial service.[43]

Two more posthumous albums were released: Genius & Friends (2005), a selection of duets recorded from 1997 to 2004 with artists of Charles' choice, including "Big Bad Love" with Diana Ross; and Ray Sings, Basie Swings (2006), which combined archive Ray Charles live vocal performances from the mid-1970s recorded from the concert mixing board with new instrumental tracks specially recorded by the contemporary Count Basie Orchestra and other musicians, to create a "fantasy concert" recording.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Ray Charles was married twice, and had twelve children with nine different women. Charles's first child Evelyn was born in 1949 to his significant other, Louise Flowers. His first marriage was to Eileen Williams Robinson and lasted from July 31, 1951 to 1952.

Charles's second marriage to Della Beatrice Howard Robinson (called "B" by Charles) began on April 5, 1955 and lasted 22 years. Their first child together, Ray Jr., was born in 1955. Charles was not in town for the birth as he was playing a show in Texas. The couple had two more children, David (1958) and Robert (1960). During their marriage, Charles felt that his heroin addiction took a toll on Della.[11]

Charles had a six-year-long affair with Margie Hendricks, one of the original Raelettes, and in 1959 the pair had a son together, Charles Wayne. His affair with Mae Mosley Lyles resulted in another daughter, Raenee, born in 1961. In 1963, Charles had a daughter, Sheila Jean Robinson, with Sandra Jean Betts. In 1966, Charles' daughter Aretha was born to a woman who remains unidentified, and another daughter, Alexandra, was also born to Chantal Bertrand. Charles divorced Della Howard in 1977, and later that year Charles had a son, Vincent, with Arlette Kotchounian. A daughter, Robyn, was born a year later to Gloria Moffett. Charles' youngest child, son Ryan Corey den Bok, born in 1987 to Mary Anne den Bok. One of Charles' long-term girlfriends at the time of his death was Norma Pinella.[citation needed]

Substance abuse and legal issues[edit]

Charles first tried drugs when he played in McSon Trio, and was eager to try them as he thought they helped musicians create music and tap into their creativity. He experimented first with marijuana, and later became addicted to heroin, which he struggled with for sixteen years. He was first arrested in the 1950s, when he and his bandmates were caught backstage with loose marijuana and drug paraphernalia, including a burnt spoon, syringe and needle. The arrest did not deter Charles' drug use, which only escalated as he became more successful and made more money.[23]

Charles was arrested again on a narcotics charge on November 14, 1961, while waiting in an Indiana hotel room before a performance. The detectives seized heroin, marijuana and other items. Charles, then 31, stated that he had been a drug addict since the age of 16. The case was dismissed because of the manner in which the evidence was obtained,[44] but Charles's situation did not improve until a few years later. Individuals such as Quincy Jones and Reverend Henry Griffin felt that those around Charles were responsible for his drug use. Charles loved to drink.[citation needed]

In 1964, Charles was arrested for possession of marijuana and heroin.[23] Following a self-imposed stay[44] at St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood, California, Charles received five years' probation. Charles responded to the saga of his drug use and reform with the songs "I Don't Need No Doctor", "Let's Go Get Stoned", and the release of Crying Time, his first album since having kicked his heroin addiction in 1966.[45][46]

Other interests[edit]

Charles liked to play chess, using a special board with raised squares and holes for the pieces.[47] In a 1991 concert, he referred to Willie Nelson as "my chess partner".[48] In 2002, he played and lost to American Grandmaster and former U.S. Champion Larry Evans.[49]

In 2001, Morehouse College honored Charles with the Candle Award for Lifetime Achievement in Arts and Entertainment, and later that same year granted him an honorary doctor of humane letters. Charles and his longtime business manager, Joe Adams, also gave a gift of $1 million to Morehouse, where Charles had approved plans for the building of the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center.[50]


Influence on music industry[edit]

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 (music critic):

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.[51]

His style and success in the genres of rhythm and blues and jazz had an influence on a number of highly successful artists, including Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison and Billy Joel. According to Joe Levy, a music editor for Rolling Stone, "The hit records he made for Atlantic in the mid-50's mapped out everything that would happen to rock 'n' roll and soul music in the years that followed".[52] Charles was also an inspiration to Pink Floyd member Roger Waters, who told the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet: "I was about 15. In the middle of the night with friends, we were listening to jazz. It was "Georgia on My Mind", Ray Charles's version. Then I thought 'One day, if I make some people feel only one twentieth of what I am feeling now, it will be quite enough for me.'"[53]

Ray, a biopic portraying his life and career between the mid-1930s and 1979, was released in October 2004, starring Jamie Foxx as Charles. Foxx won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Actor for the role. On December 7, 2007, the Ray Charles Plaza was opened in his hometown of Albany, Georgia, featuring a revolving, lighted bronze sculpture of Charles seated at a piano. The plaza's dedication was attended by his daughter Sheila Raye Charles.[citation needed]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1979, Charles was one of the first musicians born in the state to be inducted into the Georgia State Music Hall of Fame.[54] Charles' version of "Georgia On My Mind" was also made the official state song for Georgia.[55]

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.[56] He also received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986.[57] In 1987, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1991, he was inducted to the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, and was presented with the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement during the 1991 UCLA Spring Sing.[58]

In 1993, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.[59] In 1998 he was awarded the Polar Music Prize together with Ravi Shankar in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2004 he was inducted to the National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall of Fame.[60] The Grammy Awards of 2005 were dedicated to Charles.

In 2003, Charles was awarded an honorary degree by Dillard University, and upon his death he endowed a professorship of African-American culinary history at the school, the first such chair in the nation.[61] A $20 million performing arts center at Morehouse College was named after Charles and was dedicated in September 2010.[62]

The United States Postal Service issued a forever stamp honoring Ray Charles as part of it Musical Icons series on September 23, 2013.[63]

In 2016, US president Obama said that "Ray Charles's version of 'America the Beautiful' will always be in my view the most patriotic piece of music ever performed--because it captures the fullness of the American experience, the view from the bottom as well as the top, the good and the bad, and the possibility of synthesis, reconciliation, transcendence."[64]

Contribution to civil rights movement[edit]

On March 15, 1961, shortly after the release of the hit song "Georgia on My Mind" (1960), Charles (who was born in Albany, Georgia) was scheduled to perform at a dance at Bell Auditorium in Augusta, Georgia, but cancelled the show after learning from students of Paine College that the larger auditorium dance floor would be restricted to whites, while blacks would be obligated to sit in the Music Hall balcony. Charles left town immediately after letting the public know why he wouldn't be performing, but the promoter went on to sue Charles for breach of contract, and Charles was fined $757 in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta on June 14, 1962. The following year, Charles did perform at a desegregated Bell Auditorium concert together with his backup group the Raelettes on October 23, 1963,[65][66][67] and was not banned from performing thereafter in Georgia as depicted in the 2004 film, Ray.[68] On December 7, 2007, Ray Charles Plaza was opened in Albany, Georgia, with a revolving, lighted bronze sculpture of Charles seated at a piano.[58]

The Ray Charles Foundation[edit]

Founded in 1986, the Ray Charles Foundation maintains the mission statement of financially supporting institutions and organizations in the research of hearing disorders.[69] Originally known as "The Robinson Foundation for Hearing Disorders", it was renamed in 2006, and has since provided financial donations to numerous institutions involved in hearing loss research and education.[70] Specifically, the purpose of the Foundation has been "to administer funds for scientific, educational and charitable purposes; to encourage, promote and educate, through grants to institutions and organizations, as to the causes and cures for diseases and disabilities of the hearing impaired and to assist organizations and institutions in their social educational and academic advancement of programs for the youth, and carry on other charitable and educational activities associated with these goals as allowed by law".[71] The organization's philanthropic views stem from Charles' own views on giving, as the musician often contributed cochlear implant donations to those who could not afford the procedure. Charles was recorded as saying that the reason he has given so much more time and money to the hearing impaired, rather than the visually impaired, was that music saved his life, and he wouldn't know what to do if he couldn't experience it.[citation needed]

Recipients of donations include Benedict College, Morehouse College and numerous other universities.[72] The foundation has previously taken action against donation recipients who do not use funds in accordance to its mission statement, such as the Albany State University which was made to return its $3 Million donation after not using its funds for over a decade.[73] The foundation currently houses its executive offices at the historic RPM International Building, originally the home of Ray Charles Enterprises, Inc, and now also home to the Ray Charles Memorial Library on the first floor, which was founded on September 23, 2010 (what would have been Charles' 80th birthday). The library was founded to "provide an avenue for young children to experience music and art in a way that will inspire their creativity and imagination", and is not open to the public without reservation, as the main goal is to educate mass groups of underprivileged youth and provide art and history to those without access to such documents.[74] — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2601:C5:C001:4DF:F127:D634:D018:6CEA (talk) 17:02, 24 April 2016 (UTC)

wording problem[edit]

The sentence, "In the late forties he became friends with Quincy Jones, to whom he learned the ropes of arranging jazz music," should either be "To whom he taught" or "From whom he learned". I'm guessing the latter, but I don't know for sure.PuzzleMage (talk) 00:52, 30 August 2016 (UTC)

Birth name and place[edit]

According to Bob Eagle and Eric LeBlanc in Blues: A Regional Experience, here (I have a hard copy with the full text) - which I would normally consider a reliable source - he was born Horace Charles Robinson in Greenville, Florida. They say in a footnote (p.430) that he "wrongly" said that he was born in Albany, Georgia - which is what most other sources say - and moved to Florida when he was "several months old". However, I've seen other genealogy webpages (like this) that claim that Horace Charles Robinson was Ray's half-brother. Can anyone shed any light on this? I haven't made any changes to the established text. Ghmyrtle (talk) 15:07, 4 October 2016 (UTC)