Ray Charles (September 23, 1930 - June 10, 2004) was a highly acclaimed and influential singer, songwriter, and pianist who successfully fused country, jazz, soul, R&B, and gospel music and became famous beginning in the late 1940s. His numerous signature songs include such classics as "Georgia On My Mind" (1960), "Hit The Road Jack" (1961), "I Can't Stop Loving You" (1962), "You Don't Know Me" (1962), and "Busted" (1963).
Born Ray Charles Robinson in Albany, Georgia and raised in Greenville, Florida, he grew up in poverty and by age 7, had gone totally blind due most likely to glaucoma. He displayed a prodigious talent at a very early age and from 1937-1945, studied classical piano at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine. In 1948, he formed the McSon Trio with whom he had his first chart hit, "Confession Blues" (1949). Throughout his career, he had many songs that topped the R&B and/or Pop/Rock charts, starting with the groundbreaking "I've Got A Woman" (1955). From 1980-1987, he had a string of Country chart hits including "Seven Spanish Angels" (1985, with Willie Nelson). His backup musicians at various times included The Raeletts (a.k.a. The Cookies) and The Jack Halloran Singers. He also performed duets with jazz singer Betty Carter. His last charted song was in 1993, "A Song For You," for which he received his 12th Grammy.
In 1986, Ray Charles became one of the inaugural inductees at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and his numerous other honors and accolades included multiple Grammys, the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts, the Polar Music Prize, and being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame. His rendition of "Georgia On My Mind" was named the state song of Georgia in 1979.
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- For more info about Ray Charles, visit raycharles.com.
- The New York Times remembers Ray Charles.
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Ray Charles performs "What'd I Say" on The Ed Sullivan Show (December 8, 1968).
Available on iTunes and on the following DVDs: Rock n' Roll Forever; (more)
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Ray Charles And Betty Carter
- Baby It's Cold Outside 1962
("Baby, It's Cold Outside" by Ray Charles & Betty Carter was the Top Pick in 2004 on this website. This song was previously an R&B chart hit in 1949 for Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan.)
- Baby, Don't You Cry (The New Swingova Rhythm) 1964
- Busted 1963
(This song also became a hit for Johnny Cash (1963).)
- Crying Time 1965
- Don't Change On Me 1971
- Don't Set Me Free 1963
- Eleanor Rigby 1968
(This song was previously a hit for the Beatles (1966) and later also became a hit for Aretha Franklin (1969).)
- Georgia On My Mind 1960
(This song, which was previously a hit for Frankie Trumbauer (1931), topped the charts for Ray Charles in 1960 and later also became a hit for the Righteous Brothers (1966), Wes Montgomery (1968), Willie Nelson (1978), and Michael Bolton (1990). In 1979, Ray Charles' version of "Georgia On My Mind" was named as the official song of the State of Georgia.)
- Hardhearted Hannah 1960
- Here We Go Again 1967
(This song later also became a hit for Nancy Sinatra (1969).)
- Hide 'Nor Hair 1962
- Hit The Road Jack 1961
(This song topped both the R&B and Pop/Rock charts and later also became a hit for the Stampeders (1976). "Hit The Road Jack," which is performed by Ray Charles and Margie Hendricks of the Raelettes in the style of a male-female duet, is a funny heated exchange between a fed-up woman and her no-good man. This song received a Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording, and it is also included in Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.)
- I Can't Stop Loving You 1962
(This soulful country-pop song, which was written by Don Gibson who first had a hit with this song in 1958, topped the R&B, Adult Contemporary and Pop/Rock charts for Ray Charles in 1962 and later also became a hit for Count Basie (1963). "I Can't Stop Loving You" is listed in the Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and CMT's 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music.)
- I Chose To Sing The Blues 1966
- In The Heat Of The Night 1967
- Let's Go Get Stoned 1966
- My Heart Cries For You 1964
(This song was previously a hit for Guy Mitchell (1951).)
- One Mint Julep 1961
(This instrumental song was previously a hit for the Clovers (1952) and Chet Atkins (1960).)
- Ruby 1960
(This song was previously a hit for Richard Hayman (1953) and also became a hit for Adam Wade (1960).)
- Sticks And Stones 1960
- Take These Chains From My Heart 1963
(This song was previously a hit for Hank Williams (1953).)
- That Lucky Old Sun 1963
(This song was previously a hit for Frankie Laine (1949).)
- Together Again 1966
- Unchain My Heart 1961
(This song later also became a hit for Herbie Mann (1968).)
- Without Love (There Is Nothing) 1963
(This song was previously a hit for Clyde McPhatter (1957) and later also became a hit for Oscar Toney, Jr. (1968) and Tom Jones (1970).)
- Yesterday 1967
(This song previously topped the charts for the Beatles (1965) and later also became a hit for En Vogue (1992).)
- You Are My Sunshine 1962
(This song was previously a hit for Bing Crosby (1941) and Johnny & the Hurricanes (1960) and later also became a hit for Mitch Ryder (1967).)
- You Don't Know Me 1962
(This song was previously a hit for Jerry Vale (1956) and Lenny Welch (1960) and later also became a hit for Elvis Presley (1967) and Mickey Gilley (1981).)
- Your Cheating Heart 1962
(This song was previously a hit for Hank Williams (1953), George Hamilton IV (1958) and Billy Vaughn (1959).)
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