Charles, Ray

Charles, Ray
orig. Ray Charles Robinson

born Sept. 23, 1930, Albany, Ga., U.S.
died June 10, 2004, Beverly Hills, Calif.

U.S. pianist, singer, and songwriter.

His family moved to Greenville, Fla., where he began his musical career at age 5 in a neighbourhood café. By age 7 he had completely lost his sight. He learned to write scores in Braille. Orphaned at 15, he left school to play professionally. He recorded "Mess Around" and "It Should've Been Me" in 1952–53, and his arrangement for Guitar Slim's "The Things That I Used to Do" became a million-seller. Combining blues and gospel music influences, a distinctive raspy voice, and liquid phrasing, Charles later had hits with "What'd I Say," "Georgia on My Mind," and "Hit the Road, Jack." His Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962), marking unusual territory for a black performer, sold more than a million copies. He received 13 Grammy Awards, including a lifetime achievement award in 1987. Charles was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

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▪ 2005
Ray Charles Robinson; “The Genius” 
      American musician (b. Sept. 23, 1930, Albany, Ga.—d. June 10, 2004, Beverly Hills, Calif.), sang with a rough voice, original style, and raw passion that made him one of the most popular and influential performers of the 20th century. He treated ballads and pop with original blues and gospel-music inflections, introducing the “soul music” style that influenced singers from early rock musicians to 21st-century pop divas; he also became a country music innovator by singing Nashville laments accompanied by string sections and his own bluesy piano. Born into dire poverty, Charles was raised by his mother and had completely lost his eyesight by the age of seven. By then he had already begun playing piano; he learned to read music by braille at Florida's state school for the blind in St. Augustine. In his teens he toured as a pianist in blues bands, and by 1950 he was singing blues in a Nat King Cole-like manner. His original style emerged in the later 1950s as he led an outstanding small band, including saxophonists David (“Fathead”) Newman and Hank Crawford, and made rhythm-and-blues hits (including “Talking About You” and “Lonely Avenue”) from thinly disguised gospel songs. “What'd I Say?” (1959), his first million-seller, and “Hit the Road, Jack” (1961), a number one hit, both featured the Raelettes, his female vocal quartet. His ventures with a string-orchestra setting yielded hits in “Georgia on My Mind” (number one, 1960) and a superior country song, “I Can't Stop Loving You” (1962); he also began leading a big jazz band and played both piano and alto saxophone on instrumental albums. His personal life was often stormy: he fathered 11 or 12 children, and he endured an almost 20-year heroin addiction before ending it in 1965. His repertoire of pop songs, including Broadway tunes and “America the Beautiful,” expanded over the years as he became an American favourite through extensive touring, television appearances, and films (including The Blues Brothers); altogether he won 12 Grammy Awards. His autobiography, Brother Ray, appeared in 1978.

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▪ American musician
original name  Ray Charles Robinson  
born September 23, 1930, Albany, Georgia, U.S.
died June 10, 2004, Beverly Hills, California
 American pianist, singer, composer, and bandleader, a leading black entertainer billed as “the Genius.” Charles was credited with the early development of soul music, a style based on a melding of gospel, rhythm and blues, and jazz music.

      When Charles was an infant his family moved to Greenville, Florida, and he began his musical career at age five on a piano in a neighbourhood café. He began to go blind at six, possibly from glaucoma, completely losing his sight by age seven. He attended the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind, where he concentrated on musical studies, but left school at age 15 to play the piano professionally after his mother died from cancer (his father had died when the boy was 10).

      Charles built a remarkable career based on the immediacy of emotion in his performances. After emerging as a blues and jazz pianist indebted to Nat King Cole (Cole, Nat King)'s style in the late 1940s, Charles recorded the boogie-woogie classic "Mess Around" and the novelty song "It Should've Been Me" in 1952–53. His arrangement for Guitar Slim's "The Things That I Used to Do" became a blues million-seller in 1953. By 1954 Charles had created a successful combination of blues and gospel influences and signed on with Atlantic Records. Propelled by Charles's distinctive raspy voice, "I've Got a Woman" and "Hallelujah I Love You So" became hit records. "What'd I Say" led the rhythm and blues sales charts in 1959 and was Charles's own first million-seller.

      Charles's rhythmic piano playing and band arranging revived the “funky” quality of jazz, but he also recorded in many other musical genres. He entered the pop market with the best-sellers "Georgia on My Mind" (1960) and "Hit the Road, Jack" (1961). His album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962) sold more than 1,000,000 copies, as did its single, "I Can't Stop Loving You." Thereafter his music emphasized jazz standards and renditions of pop and show tunes.

      From 1955 Charles toured extensively in the United States and elsewhere with his own big band and a gospel-style female backup quartet called The Raeletts. He also appeared on television and worked in films such as Ballad in Blue (1964) and The Blues Brothers (1980) as a featured act and sound track composer. He formed his own custom recording labels, Tangerine in 1962 and Crossover Records in 1973. The recipient of many national and international awards, he received 13 Grammy Awards, including a lifetime achievement award in 1987. In 1986 Charles was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received a Kennedy Center Honor. He published an autobiography, Brother Ray, Ray Charles' Own Story (1978), written with David Ritz.

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Universalium. 2010.

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