Ray Charles Biography


Birthday: September 23, 1930 (Libra)

Born In: Albany, Georgia, United States

Ray Charles was an American singer, songwriter, composer, and pianist. He combined various styles of music like rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues and pioneered the soul music genre. This new music genre went on to produce hits like ‘Hit the Road Jack,’ ‘Georgia On My Mind,’ and ‘Unchain My Heart.’ Considered the ‘Father of Soul Music,’ Ray Charles left an indelible impression on the world of music that is still prevalent several years after his death. Best known for his secular lyrics and popular jazz arrangements, his works were largely improvisational. Over the course of his career, which spanned over five decades, he inspired a number of other musicians and singer/songwriters. What made him an even bigger international star was the fact that he did not let his visual impairment get in the way of his music, personal life, and career. A man who loved shouldering responsibilities, Charles was extremely friendly with his peers and other musicians. Today, he is remembered for his pleasing, amicable personality and is considered one of the ‘godfathers’ of soul music. From ‘Confession Blues’ to ‘What’d I Say,’ his songs continue to reverberate in the world of music.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Ray Charles Robinson Sr.

Died At Age: 73


Spouse/Ex-: Della Beatrice Howard Robinson (m. 1955–1977), Eileen Williams (m. 1951–1952)

father: Bailey Robinson

mother: Aretha

siblings: George, George Robinson

children: Alexandra Bertrand, Charles Wayne Hendricks, David Robinson, Evelyn Robinson, Raenee Robinson, Ray Charles Robinson Jr., Reatha Butler, Robert Robinson, Robyn Moffett, Ryan Corey Robinson, Sheila Raye Charles, Vincent Kotchounian

Born Country: United States

Quotes By Ray Charles Pianists

Died on: June 10, 2004

place of death: Beverly Hills, California, United States

Grouping of People: African American Singer, Blind

Cause of Death: Liver Failure

U.S. State: Georgia

Founder/Co-Founder: Tangerine Records

Childhood & Early Life

Ray Charles Robinson was born on 23 September 1930, in Albany, Georgia, USA, to Aretha and Bailey Robinson.

He was diagnosed with glaucoma at a very young age. By the age of seven, he had become completely blind. He studied at ‘Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind’ from 1937 to 1945, during which he honed his musical skills.

By the time he was 15 years old, both his parents were dead, but he did not let his personal losses deter him from pursuing a musical career.

In school, he showed great interest in learning jazz and blues music, though he was taught only classical music.

In Tallahassee, he was part of a number of local bands, such as the ‘Florida A&M University Student Band’ and the ‘Adderley Brothers.’ He was soon noticed for his musical talent and he began performing at several clubs. He was even invited to the ‘Governors Ball.’

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He moved to Seattle in 1947 and became a member of the ‘Maxin Trio’ along with Milton Garrett and G.D. McKee. The trio recorded their first song titled ‘Confession Blues’ under ‘Down Beat Records.’ The song went on to become an R&B hit.

In 1951, he signed a deal with ‘Down Beat Records,’ which was now renamed ‘Swing Time Records,’ and recorded another hit single titled ‘Let Me Hold Your Hand.’ The following year, he came up with another hit single titled ‘Kissa Me Baby.’ After the success of these two singles, he was signed on by ‘Atlantic Records.’

His first hit with ‘Atlantic Records’ came in 1953 when he recorded ‘Mess Around.’ He then recorded a number of other singles, including ‘It Should’veBeen Me’ and ‘Don’t You Know.’

In 1954, he recorded his own composition ‘I Got a Woman,’ and the song went on to become his first No. 1 hit. It also earned him nationwide recognition. He continued to record singles like ‘This Little Girl of Mine,’ ‘Drown in My Own Tears,’ ‘Lonely Avenue,’ and ‘Night Time Is the Right Time.’

In 1956, he formed his own ‘female-singing group’ called ‘Cookies’ which later came to be known as ‘The Raelettes.’

In 1957, he released his debut album with ‘Atlantic Records.’ The same year, he also released an instrumental album titled ‘The Great Ray Charles.’

He reached the zenith of his career after the release of his single ‘What’d I Say’ in 1959. The song became a huge hit and he finally broke into crossover mainstream pop music. Later in the year, he released the cover of a country song titled ‘Movin' On.’

In 1960, he recorded a live album titled ‘Ray Charles in Person.’ The same year, he produced the hit single ‘Georgia On My Mind’ as part of his hit concept album ‘The Genius Hits the Road.’ It was during this time that he signed a lucrative deal with ‘ABC-Paramount Records.’

In 1960, he also recorded one of his most popular singles ‘Hit the Road Jack’ with vocalist Margie Hendricks. It topped all R&B charts and is currently considered one of his greatest works.

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This was followed by three more albums in 1961—‘The Genius Sings the Blues,’ ‘Soul Meeting,’ and ‘The Genius After Hours.’

By 1962, Ray Charles had become an influential musician. He became one of the few black artists at the time to have gained such popularity in such a short period of time.

In the same year, he recorded albums, such as ‘Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music’ and its sequel ‘Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music Volume Two.’ That year, he also founded his own record label ‘Tangerine Records.’

From 1963 to 1968, he released a string of albums that were not as successful as his previous albums. These albums were ‘Ingredients in a Recipe for Soul,’ ‘Sweet & Sour Tears,’ ‘Have a Smile with Me,’ ‘Crying Time,’ ‘Ray’s Moods,’ and ‘A Portrait of Ray.’ Additionally, the advent of psychedelic rock decreased his appeal.

Nonetheless, he actively continued to record songs and released the 1972 album ‘Message from the People.’ The album included the hit song ‘America the Beautiful.’ Two years later, he left ‘ABC Records.’

He re-signed with ‘Atlantic Records’ in 1977 and recorded ‘True to Life.’ The same year, he also appeared in an episode of ‘Saturday Night Live.’ Two years later, ‘Georgia On My Mind’ was proclaimed the song of Georgia.

In 1980, he appeared in the film ‘The Blues Brothers.’ Three years later, he signed a record deal with ‘Columbia Records’ and began to record a string of country hits with musicians like B.J. Thomas, George Jones, and Chet Atkins.

In 1984, he recorded the single ‘Seven Spanish Angels’ which would go on to become his most popular country single. The next year, he was seen performing at Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration.

In 1991, his catch-phrase ‘You Got the Right One, Baby’ made him an international star, thanks to the ‘Diet Pepsi’ commercials. Two years later, he performed at the inauguration of Bill Clinton.

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He was seen in four episodes of the popular TV series ‘The Nanny’ from 1997 to 1998. In the new millennium, he appeared in a number of commercials for the ‘New Jersey Lottery.’

In 2002, he released the album ‘Thanks for Bringing Love Around Again.’Two years later, he released ‘Ray Charles Celebrates a Gospel Christmas with the Voices of Jubilation’ and ‘Live at Olympia 2000.’

He made his last public appearance on April 30, 2004, when his music studio was recognized as a historic landmark in Los Angeles.

Major Works

‘Georgia On My Mind’ is a single that was released as part of his 1960 album ‘The Genius Hits the Road.’ After this record was released, it became extremely successful and was covered by a number of artists, including Billie Holiday, ‘Coldplay,’ and Van Morrison to name a few. ‘Georgia On My Mind’ became the state song of Georgia in 1979.

‘Hit the Road Jack’ was one of his singles released in 1960. It went on to become one of his greatest works. It stayed at the No. 1 position for two weeks on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart and also earned him a ‘Grammy Award.’ The song is regarded as one of ‘The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time’ by the ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine.

Awards & Achievements

In 1987, he was presented with the ‘Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.’He won a total of 17 ‘Grammy Awards.’

He was one of the first inductees into the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ in 1986.

In 1991, he was inducted into the ‘Rhythm & Blues Foundation.’

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He was honored with the ‘National Medal of Arts’ in 1993.

He was inducted into the ‘National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall of Fame’ in 2004.

The 2005‘Grammy Awards’was dedicated to Ray Charles.

A forever stamp was released in his honor by the ‘US Postal Service’ in 2013.

He was inducted into the ‘Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame’ in 2015.

Personal Life & Legacy

He married Eileen Williams in 1951 but divorced her the following year.

In 1955, he married Della Beatrice Howard Robinson. The marriage lasted for two decades.

Apart from his two marriages, he was in a relationship with Norma Pinella who stayed with him until his death. He also had several other relationships; he fathered 12 children with ten different women.

In 1961, he was arrested following the seizure of marijuana, heroin, and other drugs from his room. He was addicted to drugs during his lifetime. He responded to his addiction with songs like ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor’ and ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned.’

Apart from music, he liked playing chess.

On June 10, 2004, he passed away due to liver failure in his Beverly Hills home in California. His mortal remains were buried at ‘Inglewood Park Cemetery.’ Two of his albums, ‘Genius & Friends’ and ‘Ray Sings, Basie Swings,’ were released posthumously.

In 2004, a biopic titled ‘Ray’ had Jamie Foxx playing the famed musician. Three years later, the ‘Ray Charles Plaza’ was opened in Albany, Georgia.


‘The Father of Soul Music’ used his visual disability in his favor by turning it into a fashion statement; he was always seen wearing his trademark black sunglasses.

He preferred to be called 'Brother Ray.' He was also referred to as 'The Genius.'


Grammy Awards
2006 Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media Ray (2004)
2005 Album of the Year Winner
2005 Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals Winner
2005 Best Pop Vocal Album Winner
2005 Best Gospel Performance Winner
2005 Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) Winner
2005 Record of the Year Winner
1994 Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male Winner
1991 Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals Winner
1987 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
1987 Best Historical Album Winner
1976 Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male Winner
1967 Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Male or Female Winner
1967 Best Rhythm & Blues Recording Winner
1964 Best Rhythm & Blues Recording Winner
1963 Best Rhythm & Blues Recording Winner
1962 Best Rhythm & Blues Recording Winner
1961 Best Vocal Performance Album, Male Winner
1961 Best Vocal Performance Single Record or Track, Male Winner
1961 Best Rhythm & Blues Performance Winner
1961 Best Performance By A Pop Single Artist Winner

See the events in life of Ray Charles in Chronological Order

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