Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004), known by his stage name Ray Charles. He brought a soulful sound to country music and pop standards through his Modern Sounds recordings, as well as a rendition of "America the Beautiful" that Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes called the "definitive version of the song, an American anthem — a classic, just as the man who sang it." He also appeared in the 1980 hit movie, The Blues Brothers. Frank Sinatra called him "the only true genius in the business".
In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Charles number ten on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and also voted him number two on their November 2008 list of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
He was the son of Aretha Williams, a share cropper, and Bailey Robinson, a railroad repair man, mechanic and handyman. The family moved to Greenville, Florida, when Ray was an infant.
Ray Charles was not born blind. He started to lose his sight at the age of five. He went completely blind by the age of seven. Charles never knew exactly why he lost his sight, though there are sources that suggest his blindness was due to glaucoma, and some other sources suggest that Ray began to lose his sight from an infection caused by soapy water to his eyes which was left untreated. He attended school at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, Florida from 1937-1945 where he developed his musical gift that he is known and remembered for today. His father died when he was ten, followed by his mother five years later.
During his 45 year career, Ray appeared on the US Pop charts 77 times, with 33 of those songs making the Top 40. He became the first artist to have an album on Billboard's Hot 200 for six decades in a row.
In 2003 Charles performed "Georgia On My Mind" and "America the Beautiful" at a televised annual electronic media journalist banquet held in Washington, D.C., at what may have been his final performance in public.
He died on of liver cancer at his home in Beverly Hills, California, surrounded by family and friends. His body was interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.
RIP Ray, the world misses your genius.
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