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Guide Profile: Ray Charles


The Genius in younger years


Ray Charles Robinson


b: September 23, 1930 (Albany, GA) d: June 10, 2004 (Beverly Hills, CA)


Soul, R&B, Jump blues, Blues, Country, Pop, Pop-Soul, Country-Soul, Adult Contemporary, Jazz, Soul-Jazz, Gospel


Vocals, Piano

#1 Hits:

Pop: "Georgia On My Mind," "Hit The Road, Jack," "I Can't Stop Loving You" R&B: "I've Got A Woman," "A Fool for You," "Drown In My Own Tears," "Mary Ann," "What'd I Say (Part I)," "Hit The Road, Jack," "One Mint Julep," "I Can't Stop Loving You," "You Are My Sunshine," "Unchain My Heart," "Let's Go Get Stoned" Country: "Seven Spanish Angels"

Top 10 Hits:

Pop: "What'd I Say (Part I)," "One Mint Julep," "Unchain My Heart," "You Don't Know Me," "You Are My Sunshine," "Busted," "Take These Chains From My Heart," "Crying Time" R&B: "Blackjack," "Greenbacks," "This Little Girl Of Mine," "Hallelujah I Love Her So," "Lonely Avenue," "What Would I Do Without You," "Ain't That Love," "Night Time Is the Right Time," "Georgia On My Mind," "Sticks And Stones," "I've Got News For You," "Ruby," "Them That Got," twelve more Country: "We Didn't See a Thing"

#1 Albums:

Pop: Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music, Genius Loves Company R&B: Crying Time Country: Friendship

Top 10 Albums:

Pop: The Genius Hits The Road, Genius + Soul = Jazz, Ray Charles' Greatest Hits, Ingredients In A Recipe For Soul, Sweet & Sour Tears R&B: Ray Charles Live In Concert, Ray's Moods, Ray Charles Invites You To Listen, A Portrait Of Ray, Genius Loves Company Jazz: A Portrait Of Ray, Genius + Soul = Jazz, Ray Charles and Betty Carter Blues: Music Legends - Ray Charles: Ray's Blues Gospel: Ray Charles Celebrates a Gospel Christmas


In the first golden age of rock and roll, you could always trust a musician by his nickname – meaning that Jackie Wilson WAS exciting and James Brown WAS the hardest worker. But they only called one man The Genius, and that moniker succinctly summed up the essence of Ray Charles' appeal. Lots of folks shifted musical styles when their sales figures or their muses indicated it, but Brother Ray alone knew how to cross so many musical boundaries at once. Not even Elvis Presley at his peak could claim such a seamless blend of pop, country, gospel, and blues.

Born in Albany, Georgia, during the depression, and blind by the age of seven, Ray Charles Robinson certainly had the deck stacked against him from the beginning. But as he himself said, Ray wasn't good because he was blind; Ray was good because he was good. Influenced by both the pop vocal stylings of crooners like Nat King Cole and the smooth West Coast Blues of Charles Brown, Ray started off cutting rather unadventurous (yet still exciting) jump blues and R&B in New Orleans.

But it was musical wanderlust that would lead to the two great milestones of his career. In 1959, the singer consolidated his gospel and blues influences (which he'd already marshaled on cuts like "I Got A Woman") for a raveup called "What'd I Say": it's widely regarded now as the first hit soul record, sophisticated yet sensual, relentlessly secular yet burning with a religious fervor. In 1962, he cemented his legacy by releasing the "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music" LP, which somehow infused soul into C&W standards like "Born To Lose" and "I Can't Stop Loving You." Arguably one of the most brilliant interpretive albums ever released, it did more to integrate modern American music than almost any other LP in history. And although he more or less settled into an oldies-circuit level of fame after that, he remains an institution for his insistence on carrying different forms of music to places they shouldn’t logically have visited.

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