May 17th, 2006
Ray Charles
About Ray Charles

They call him the “genius” and they call him the “father of soul.” With perfect pitch and an expressive voice, he combines worlds as diverse as jazz, country, rhythm and blues, and gospel to break your heart or make you dance. His name is Ray Charles, and if you turn your radio to any station you will hear the influence of his ground-breaking music.

Ray Charles was born into a poor family on September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia, though he was raised in Florida. Completely blind by the age of seven, Charles attended the Saint Augustine School of the Blind and Deaf where he began to study piano, saxophone, and clarinet. When he was only fifteen his mother died (followed two years later by his father) and Charles began working as a traveling musician throughout Florida, and later Washington state.

In the early years he traveled with country/western and jazz bands, singing and playing the piano. His “cool” sound was heavily influenced by the popular Nat “King” Cole, but he was beginning to find his style with a throatier, unrestrained sound reminiscent of gospel music. In 1950 he moved to Los Angeles , and by 1954 had his first big hit with Atlantic Records. “I Got A Woman,” combined the blues of greats like Guitar Slim with the sounds of gospel. This recording would make Charles famous and mark the beginning of a new genre, “soul.”

Charles spent the rest of the 1950s continuing to combine blues, gospel, and jazz in such hits as “In My Own Tears,” “What’d I Say,” “Unchain My Heart,” “Hit the Road Jack,” and “Georgia on My Mind.” With these dynamic compositions and his incredible popularity, Charles single-handedly changed the face of contemporary music. By the early 1960s, he formed a big band and had a top ten instrumental hit with “One Mint Julep.” He followed this with the 1962 release of GENIUS + SOUL = JAZZ, and a number of very popular country albums.

With the release of MODERN SOUNDS IN COUNTRY AND WESTERN (Vol 1 and 2), Charles brought his unique style to a new audience and had major hits including “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Born To Lose” and “Busted.” In the mid-1960s, he was arrested for drug possession, which prompted his successful fight against a seventeen year heroin addiction. During this time, Charles kept a low profile though he did have hits with a number of Beatles’ covers, and the song “Crying Time.” His output during the 1970s included work with singers Randy Newman and Stevie Wonder.

In the 1980s, Charles was often in the public eye, making frequent appearances on television and in the movies. He had a number of albums and performed duets with many well-known musicians including Willie Nelson, Chaka Khan, and the Blues Brothers. His appearance on the 1985 release of “We Are the World,” brought a renewed interest in much of his work. During the 1990s he continued to write and perform, and in 1992 President Bill Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Arts. To this day, Ray Charles is one of the most important influences on popular music. His passionate singing and intelligent melding of different genres remains the ideal by which many musicians continue to gauge their work.

Ray Charles died on June 10th, 2004.


  • jasmine

    he is a very good person and inspired aloot of people

  • Norene

    Ray Charles is one of my most favorite, if not favorite, singers. He had such an expressive voice that conveyed a range of feelings in such a soulful and uninhibited manner. His open-mindedness allowed him to successfully perform various genres. There seemed to be nothing he couldn’t sing! Favorites that stand out are his show-stopping rendition of “America” and his signature “Georgia On My Mind.” They don’t come like him often. He is sorely missed.

  • zach

    he is cool

  • destiny

    i thought he was awsome even before i read this.

  • harley

    Ray Charles is the coolest

  • karina

    what made him become famous?

  • mario

    ray charles is the best of all time :)

  • Luigi

    He is a a great man

  • jakerria

    he is my hero in my father i wish i had

  • jakerria

    he is flower that keep me happy he my rose that let me see sun ray charles

  • pancakes

    i like the movie! :)

  • Robin Grant

    Mr. Charles is one of the greatest musical genuises of our time. His contributions to Jazz, and Soul are fused with Gospel music. He undoubtedly inspired musicians from all genres of music

  • shalare

    I think that Ray Charles is the best musician that has ever lived. I wish that he was still alive today so that I could ask him any question that I have. I would love to sit with him and have a meal and talk about all the things that has happened in his life. In someways he is an inspiration to me.

  • Molly

    I am doing a paper on Ray and I am finding that he had a very hard life. We should all learn from him because he had enough determination to make himself famous. RIP Ray! <3

  • brittany and naya

    ray charles is muh brah brah he waz awsum:) best singer ever

  • stephen

    Can i know , why and what make Ray Charles stop playing Nat King Cole style?

  • michael

    I have all waspys love the voice of Ray Charles the song I most love is Georgia on my mind .No one has or ever will sign it li,e Mr Ray

  • Jeffery Ryans

    Ray Charles, what an inspirational man! Sometimes we, who can see, make all types of excuses why we can’t! Not only was Ray blind, he was black and poor as a young boy. As an African American myself, one might say, he had three strikes against him; however, he was able to become one of the most influential musician and singer of all times. Jamie Foxx did an excellent job portraying his life in the move RAY. WOW…what an amazing story!

  • lawrence

    Ray Charles was a man who limited his limitations

  • Mohammed

    Ray Charles embodied the best of the best human attributes. Neither racism nor blindness limited his genius and generosity, a one-of-a-kind. His complexity and greatness shine brightly through his soulful music. An American treasure and gift to the world. Legend. God bless you Ray Charles.

  • kaitlynn


  • alexander reese

    On Febuary 21-23 Mrs. Crenshaw’s 9th grade Englishclass are doing black history projects my project is on Ray and i think this gave me the information i needed.

  • alexizandria

    ray charles has influenced many people in his life time.He has brought great ideas to the young and the old

  • Christine

    Ray is awesome

  • chrissy

    his father died when he was ten not 17

  • kaelin

    AWSOME music producer just because he was a blind songwriter

  • Deborah Nelson

    He was a great example of Adlers theory of a person over coming a handicap or poverty and so on. In the movie Ray by Universol Studieos tell a great deal of his story. I think the only thing they left out was the fact he had two wives instead of one. He sure did like the ladies as another article say he fathered 12 children with nine women.
    Of course his low point was when his brother died. It was behind his herion addiction. After comeing to peace with this death in treatment he finally got sober. He will be missed, but his music lives on and on.

  • Destiny banks

    Omg I loved this movie and it’s was a little sad but it showed me too never give up your dream and haha I won’t believe in your self and forget your surroundings and just do you

  • Sara

    Inspiration to the world

  • Autumn

    Ray Charles inspiring because even though he was blind he became famous. He is a amazing man!

  • andrew holley

    ray charles is boss

  • andrew

    ray charles is jazz king

  • andrew

    ray is the best jazz country and r&b singer to live

  • Andrew

    he is the best singer and performer to live and every one should know that is true

Inside This Episode

  • About Ray Charles


Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2015 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.