John Doe

"Ray"

6th May 1930 - 11th May 2000 (70 Years)

“best rock and roll singer”

Contents

1. Early Life

1.1 Childhood 1.2 University

2. Middle Life

2.1 Marriage 2.1 Marriage

Volunteering

3.2 Teaching 3.2 Sickness

The Beginning

Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004) was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. Among friends and fellow musicians he preferred being called "Brother Ray". He was often referred to as "The Genius".[3][4] Charles was blinded during childhood due to glaucoma.[2]

Charles pioneered the soul music genre during the 1950s by combining blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, and gospel styles into the music he recorded for Atlantic.[2][5][6] He contributed to the integration of country music, rhythm and blues, and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, notably with his two Modern Sounds albums.[7][8][9] While he was with ABC, Charles became one of the first Black musicians to be granted artistic control by a mainstream record company.[5]

Charles' 1960 hit "Georgia On My Mind" was the first of his three career No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. His 1962 album Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music became his first album to top the Billboard 200.[10] Charles had multiple singles reach the Top 40 on various Billboard charts: 44 on the US R&B singles chart, 11 on the Hot 100 singles chart, 2 on the Hot Country singles charts.[11]

Charles cited Nat King Cole as a primary influence, but his music was also influenced by Louis Jordan and Charles Brown.[12] He had a lifelong friendship and occasional partnership with Quincy Jones. Frank Sinatra called Ray Charles "the only true genius in show business," although Charles downplayed this notion.[13] Billy Joel said, "This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley".[14]

Adult Life

Ray Charles Robinson [note 1] was the son of Bailey Robinson, a laborer, and Aretha (or Reatha) Williams, a laundress, of Greenville, Florida.

Aretha was described as a lovely slip of a girl with long wavy black hair; she was also sickly and walked with a cane. Her mother had died and her father, a man Bailey worked with, could not keep her. The Robinson family—Bailey, his wife Mary Jane and his mother—informally adopted her and Aretha took the surname Robinson. A few years later 15-year-old Aretha became pregnant by Bailey. During the ensuing scandal, she left Greenville late in the summer of 1930 to be with family in Albany, Georgia. After the birth of Ray Charles, she and her baby returned to Greenville. Aretha and Bailey's wife, who had lost a son, then shared in Charles' upbringing. His father abandoned the family, left Greenville, and married another woman elsewhere. By his first birthday Charles had a brother, George. In later years, no one could remember who George's father was.[12]

Charles was deeply devoted to his mother and later recalled, despite her poor health and adversity, her perseverance, self-sufficiency, and pride which were guiding lights in his life.

In his early years, Charles showed an interest in mechanical objects and would often watch his neighbors working on their cars and farm machinery. His musical curiosity was sparked at Wylie Pitman's Red Wing Cafe, at the age of three, when Pitman played boogie woogie on an old upright piano; Pitman subsequently taught Charles how to play the piano. Charles and his mother were always welcome at the Red Wing Cafe and even lived there when they were in financial distress.[12] Pitman would also care for Ray's younger brother George, to take some of the burden off their mother. George drowned in his mother's laundry tub when he was four years old.[12][16]

Charles started to lose his sight at the age of four[4] or five,[17] and was blind by the age of seven, apparently as a result of glaucoma.[18] Destitute, uneducated, and mourning the loss of her younger son, Aretha Robinson used her connections in the local community to find a school that would accept a blind African-American pupil. Despite his initial protest, Charles attended school at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine from 1937 to 1945.[12]

Charles further developed his musical talent at school[18] and was taught to play the classical piano music of J.S. Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. His teacher, Mrs. Lawrence, taught him how to use braille music, 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 combining the two parts.

Ray Charles' mother died in the spring of 1945, when Ray was 14. Her death came as a shock to him; he later said the deaths of his brother and mother were "the two great tragedies" of his life. Charles decided not to return to school after the funeral.[12]

Late Life

1945–1952: Florida, Los Angeles, and Seattle
After leaving school, Charles moved to Jacksonville to live with Charles Wayne Powell, who had been friends with his late mother. He played the piano for bands at the Ritz Theatre in LaVilla for over a year,[19] earning $4 a night (US$39 in 2019 dollars[20]). He joined Local 632 of the musicians' union, in the hope that it would help him get work,[21] and was able to use the union hall's piano, since he did not have one at home, and where he learned piano licks from copying the other players.[22] 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, so, at age 16, he moved to Orlando, where he lived in borderline poverty and went without food for days.[23] It was difficult 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.[24]

In 1947, Charles moved to Tampa, where he had two jobs: one as a pianist for Charles Brantley's Honey Dippers.[25]

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 allegedly made in Tampa, although some discographies claim he recorded them in Miami in 1951 or Los Angeles in 1952.[24]

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.[24][26] Here he met and befriended, under the tutelage of Robert Blackwell, a 15-year-old Quincy Jones.[27]

With Charles on piano, McKee on guitar and Milton Garrett on bass, the McSon trio (named for McKee and Robinson) started playing the one-to-five A.M. shift at the Rocking Chair.[28] Publicity photos of the trio are some of the earliest known photographs of Charles. In April 1949, he and his band recorded "Confession Blues", which became his first national hit, soaring to the second spot on the Billboard R&B chart.[24] 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".[23] After the success of his first two singles, Charles moved to Los Angeles in 1950, and spent the next few years touring with the blues musician Lowell Fulson as his musical director.[4]

In 1950, his performance in a Miami hotel impressed 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.[29]

After signing with Swing Time Records, he recorded two more R&B hits under the name Ray Charles: "Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand" (1951), which reached No. 5, and "Kissa Me Baby" (1952), which reached No. 8. Swing Time folded the following year, and Ahmet Ertegun signed him to Atlantic.[18]

The End

Charles's renewed chart success, however, proved to be short lived, and by the 1970s 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 masters had taken away the motivation to write new material. Charles nonetheless continued to have an active recording career. Most of his recordings between 1968 and 1973 evoked strong reactions: people either liked them a lot or strongly disliked them.[18] His recordings during this period, especially 1972's A Message from the People, moved toward the progressive soul sound popular at the time.[44] A Message from the People included his unique gospel-influenced version of "America the Beautiful" and 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. On July 14, 1973, Margie Hendrix, the mother of Ray's son Charles Wayne Hendrix, died at 38 years old from a heroin overdose, which led to Ray caring for the child.

In 1974, Charles left ABC Records and recorded several albums on his own label, Crossover Records. A 1975 recording of Stevie Wonder's hit "Living for the City" later helped Charles win another Grammy. In 1977, he reunited with Ahmet Ertegun and re-signed to Atlantic Records, for which 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 the NBC television show Saturday Night Live.[45]

In April 1979, his 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. In 1980 Charles performed in the musical film The Blues Brothers.[18] Although he had notably supported the American Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s, Charles was criticized for performing at the Sun City resort in South Africa in 1981, during an international boycott protesting that country's apartheid policy. He later defended his choice of performing there after insisting that the audience of black and white fans would integrate while he was there.[18]

Ray

Community Contributions

Community Contributions

Compendium

Born: 6 May 1930 New York

Died: 11 May 2000 (aged1930-2020) Floroda

Cause of death: Natural

Partner(s): May Brown

Children: Anna Amy Jill

Parents: June and Fred

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