Ray Charles: American Music Icon

Topics: Ray Charles

Ray Charles Robinson, commonly known as Ray Charles, was a phenomenal singer, songwriter, composer and musician of his time. The style of music he’s known for is rhythm and blues, jazz, and the occasional gospel. Charles was born in the beginning of the Great Depression, September 23rd 1930, but despite his poverty, Charles believes he had a happy childhood, although his life appeared to be full of misfortune. When he was five years old he witnessed the drowning death of his younger brother George.

George, who was four, accidentally slipped and fell into a large metal tub in their backyard that was used for washing clothes.

Charles tried to pull him out but George was too heavy. By the time he got their mother it was too late. Charles was born and raised in Albany, Georgia but attended school in St. Augustine, Florida. It is commonly known that Ray Charles was blind, but what many people don’t know is that he wasn’t born that way.

It took Ray almost 7 years for him to completely lose his sight. Reasoning for the loss of eyesight is believed to be because of untreated glaucoma. Due to his condition, Ray’s mother sent in an application for him to attend a school in Florida currently known as Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, he was accepted as a charity student. At the time, this school was named Institute for the Blind, Deaf, and Dumb. This is where Charles first leamed to read and compose music in braille, as well as how to play the piano, saxophone, clarinet, along with many other instruments.

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Unfortunately, Charles’ life didn’t appear to be getting better. Around the time of his 15th birthday, Charles’ mother passed away. This was the most devastating moment of his life, Charles claimed. He felt like a “lost child” and decided to leave school and move to Jacksonville with one of his mother’s friends. Charles found it difficult to survive as a musician in Florida and wanted to get away but was too intimidated by New York and Chicago so he decided to go to the furthest place in the U.S from Florida, which was Seattle. After a five day bus trip, Charles found a town that was “really open and smokin’.” This is where he became independent. He was shopping, cooking, and cleaning on his own. This impressed another teenage musical prodigy named Quincy Jones. Jones was also greatly impressed by the way Charles handled his blindness. “It was like somebody forgot to tell Ray he was blind unless there was a pretty girl around, then he’d get all helpless and sightless, bumping into walls and doors.” Quincy Jones and Ray Charles later on went on to being friends.

Seattle is where Charles opened up his own record label, in 1962. The name of the label was Tangerine Records, ABC-Paramount records helped promote and distribute Ray’s label. Although before creating his own label company, Ray Charles released many songs under other labels that led him to his fame. Many of Ray Charles’ most famous songs were released under the label ‘Atlantic’. Songs such as Hallelujah I love her so released in 1957 and What’d I Say released in 1959 became a couple of Ray’s most famous rhythm and blues songs. Later on in 1961, Ray Charles released a song under ABC-Paramount titled Hit the Road Jack, this song has become very popular in today’s pop culture. It was featured in the Deadpool (2016) soundtrack as well as being a part of the popular video game Just Dance 2016. In the following year, 1962, Ray Charles released a cover of country artist Don Gibson’s I Can Stop Loving You.

Ray’s cover blew up on the charts. That same year it became number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 and stayed there for tive weeks. Back in 1954 Ray Charles released a song titled I Got a Woman under the label Atlantic and although this song did not blow up during the time of its release, it did become very popular in 2005. In 2005 rapper Kanye West and singer Jamie Fox released a song titled Gold Digger. On September 6th, 2005 this song hit number one on Billboard’s Hot 100. Samples from Ray Charles’ I Got a Woman was used in the writing of Gold Digger. Ray is credited in the writing of Gold Digger. Unfortunately Ray Charles passed away on June 10th in 2004, only a year before this song was released.

Work Cited

  1. “Oxford Music Online.” Charles, Ray in. Web. 08 Sept. 2016. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/A2224026?
    geray+charles&search=quick&pos=1& start=l#firsthit
  2. By the Late ’40s, He Was Recording in a Smooth Pop/R&B Style Derivative of Nat. “Ray

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Ray Charles: American Music Icon. (2023, Apr 22). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-biography-of-ray-charles-robinson-an-american-singer-songwriter-musician-and-composer/

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