Ray Charles was a music legend. People all over the world knew his name and his music. He was an accomplished singer, composer, pianist, and entertainer. He won twelve Grammy awards and was inducted into nine different halls of fame. The musical genius, as he was often called, played over ten thousand concerts in his lifetime.
Ray Charles had a unique style and sound. He blended many types of music into one new, smooth sound: soul music. He combined rhythm and blues with jazz, gospel, and country and western. Ray Charles is referred to by many as the “Father of Soul”.
Ray Charles Robinson was born on September 23, 1930. His family was very poor. They lived in Georgia for a short time before moving to Florida. At the age of five he began to go blind from glaucoma. At the age of seven, his right eye was removed. He was totally blind before his eighth birthday.
Ray was a student at St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind. It was at this school he learned to read and write music in Braille. He also learned how to play many instruments.
When Ray was fifteen, his mother died. He was orphaned and of his own. He quit school and decided to begin his music career. He shortened his name, and became Ray Charles. Ray traveled around Florida trying to get gigs. He was not very successful. He often went without food because he had so little money. Life was tough for the struggling musician.
Ray chose to leave Florida and travel as far away from home has he could. In 1947 he moved to Seattle, Washington. The move to this new city was a major turning point for him. Folks who attended clubs where he performed liked what they heard. He became a celebrity and soon headed to Los Angeles for his first professional recording.
Despite his many successes, Ray had his share of struggles. In 1965, Ray was arrested for possession of heroin. It was this third and final arrest that forced him to quit doing drugs. He had been an addict for over fifteen years. He also had two failed marriages and many failed relationships. He was the father of twelve children by seven different women.
Ray was recording a new collection of duets when he died of acute liver disease in June of 2004. He was 73 year old. After his death, the recording of duets was released. It became a huge success and was his first platinum selling album in over fifty years of recording.