An American recording artist and actor.
Ray Charles Biography – Overview
Ray Charles was born Ray Charles Robinson on September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia. Very early in his career, this American musician had the nickname “The Genius” bestowed upon him, and he became the embodiment of that term in so many areas of music. He was a vocalist, performer, songwriter, bandleader and arranger who played keyboards and reeds. He was an innovator in music who comfortably, confidently and successfully worked in rhythm and blues, gospel, country, jazz and rock. He was an astute businessman who took the unprecedented action of insisting upon artistic control and ownership of his own master recordings, formed his own publishing companies and his own record labels.
In the 1950s, he broke down the barriers of sacred and secular music, fused elements of gospel, jazz and blues together and mixed it with a fiery, fervid style that would come to be known as soul music. The same powerful gospel/jazz/blues mix would create the very foundation for rock and roll.
In the 1960s, he helped integrate country and pop music with his crossover success, most notably with his Modern Sounds of Country and Western Music, Vol. 1 and 2, both of which were released in 1962. It kicked the doors wide-open for new audiences to find country music and to embrace Ray Charles. Throughout his entire career, Ray Charles continued to mix musical styles at will, and with great success, scoring major hits on the R&B, Jazz, Country and Pop charts.
Ray Charles’ recording of “Georgia On My Mind” was made the official state song for Georgia in 1979. He received The Kennedy Center Honors for exemplary lifetime achievement in the performing arts in 1986 from President Ronald Reagan and the National Medal of Arts in 1993 from President William Clinton. In addition to winning 17 Grammy Awards, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #10 on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” in 2004 and #2 on their list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” in 2008.
The 2004 feature film Ray, which portrays the life and career of Ray Charles, and stars Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles is the all-time number one music biopic, earning $125 million in worldwide box office. Jamie Foxx won the Academy Award for “Best Actor In A Leading Role” for his performance.
Ray Charles died on June 10, 2004, two months before the release of his final album Genius Loves Company. He was 73.
In 1986, Mr. Charles created what is now known as The Ray Charles Foundation which is dedicated to providing support in the area of hearing disorders and the empowerment of young people through education by offering foundation support to educational institutions and non-profit education programs. The vision of The Ray Charles Foundation is to instill in the youth of America that “there is no challenge too great one cannot overcome.”