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Ray Charles (Musician, 1930-2004)


Ray Charles Demographics:
  • Name - Ray Charles Robinson
  • Born - September 23, 1930
  • Died - June 10, 2004
  • Stage Name - Ray Charles
  • Nationality - American
  • Profession - Musician
  • Mother - Aretha Williams, a share cropper.
  • Father - Bailey Robinson, a railroad repair man, mechanic & handyman.
Ray started to lose his sight at the age of five, and he was completely blind by the age of seven years. He attended the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, Florida from 1937-1945. It was at this school that he developed his musical gift, initially being trained in classical piano. His father died when he was 10 years old and his mother subsequently died when he was 15 years old. After his mother's death in 1945 he did not return back to school, instead he started playing piano for bands.

During his late teens Ray also started using heroin, to which he was to be addicted for nearly 20 years before being arrested for the third time with heroin possession in 1965. To avoid gaol time Ray Charles attended a clinic in Los Angeles where he managed to kick the habit. One of the factors which Ray felt had helped him come off heroin was his introduction to the game of chess (see here). A chess board was designed for Ray "with the dark squares being slightly elevated, and the tops of the dark pieces having sharper edges compared with the white pieces. Each of the board's squares had a hole to fit the pieces into - much like a travel set."

Charles' soulful musical style was very distinctive and Frank Sinatra has even been quoted as saying that his (Ray's) is "the only true genius in the business". Rolling Stone Magazine has also continually ranked him highly on their list of "The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time".

The video below shows Ray Charles Live At The McCallum Theater (1991) playing "America the Beautiful". Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes once said that a Ray Charles rendition of "America the Beautiful" was the "definitive version of the song, an American anthem — a classic, just as the man who sang it."



Ray Charles R.I.P.

Image - Ray Charles (1930 - 2004) (California, 1966) by Bill Ray (Life Magazine)

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