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Ray Charles

History of Popular Music 801 project

Kendra Smith

on 19 January 2015

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Transcript of Ray Charles

Ray Charles
Musical Breakthrough
Early Years
Early Years
A traumatic event of Ray's childhood was witnessing the drowning death of his younger brother.
Soon after his brother's death, he gradually began to loose his sight. He was blind by the age of 7 and his mother sent him to a state-sponsored school, the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, Florida.
The school Ray Charles attended
Early Years
At school Ray learned to play piano, organ, sax, clarinet and trumpet. The range of his musical interests ranged widely, from gospel to country, to blues.
At the age of 15, Ray's mother passed away. After her death, Ray toured on the "Chitlin' Circuit" in the South for a year. While on the road, he starting using heroin. At the of age 16, Ray moved to Seattle. There, he met Quincy Jones, a lifetime friend and collaborator. Ray began performing with the McSon Trio soon after the move.
Young Quincy
Mcson Trio
Influences Early On
Charles Brown and Nat King Cole
Charles Brown
Nat King Cole
Early Successes
In 1949, he released his first R&B single, "Confession Blues," with the Maxin Trio. More success on the R&B charts followed with "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand."
Record Deal
By 1953, Ray landed a deal with Atlantic Records. His first R&B hit single with the label was "Mess Around."
Ray Charles Robinson was born on September 23, 1930, in Albany, Georgia. His mother moved Ray and his brother George to Florida when he was an infant.
Father: Bailey Robinson, a mechanic, who was often absent in Ray's life.
Mother: Aretha Robinson, working in a sawmill, was present throughout Ray's life until her death when Ray was only 15 years of age.

In 1954, Charles's now classic song, "I Got a Woman," reached No. 1 on the R&B charts.
Ray's biggest success was perhaps his ability to cross over into pop music. He reached No. 6 on the pop chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart with his hit "What'd I Say."
In 1960, Ray received his first Grammy Award for "Georgia on My Mind," followed by another Grammy for the single "Hit the Road, Jack."
Ray broke down the boundaries of music in 1962 with Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. On this album, he gave his own soulful interpretations of many country classics.
Personal Life
In 1965, Ray was in rehab for his longtime heroin addiction.
(He’d been arrested for possession for the third time in 1965, and agreed to rehab in order to avoid jail time.)
Ray was married and divorced twice
1) Eileen Williams: Eileen and Ray married on July 31, 1951 in Georgia. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1952.
2) Della Beatrice Howard Robinson: Ray and Della were married on April 5, 1955. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1977. They had three children.
Ray acknowledged having 12 children, 21 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson with Ray and their three children
"I ate, slept, and drank everything Nat ‘King’ Cole. I wanted to be like him because he played the piano and sang and put all those tasty little things behind his singing… I practiced day and night to sound like Nat Cole. In the days when I was coming up, I had a lot of feeling for the songs of Nat Cole because he did what I wanted to do, and that was to play and sing at the same time."
Ray Charles
"What makes my approach special is that I do different things. I do jazz, blues, country music and so forth. I do them all, like a good utility man."

"When I was 13, I started working in a nightclub with Ray Charles. That's the greatest school in the world, the school of the streets. Ray taught me how to read in Braille. He was only two years older than me, but it was like he was 100 years older."

Quincy with Ray
The World
-During the 1950s, the struggle against racism and segregation entered the mainstream of American life.
-The tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, known as the Cold War, was another defining element of the 1950s.
1950'S in America:
1960's in America:
Just as racism became the new focus of the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, other groups were growing similarly impatient with other rules, restrictions, and wars. Student activists especially grew more radical in the 1960s. (Seen in Across The Universe).
Ray's Look
- Flashy suit
- Classic suit jacket and dress pants
- Big dark sunglasses
Fan Base
At the beginning of his career, Ray's music was mostly listened to by a black audience.
This was until "I've Got a Woman" was released in 1954. This was the first Ray Charles record that got attention from white audiences, but it made some black audiences uncomfortable with its black gospel derivatives. His success in crossover music (both R&B and pop success) led to his music being popular with multiple races.
Performance Style
Ray Charles played the piano for his live performances while singing.
Since Ray was visually impaired, there was a limitation to how he could use the stage. He had to depend on his music to touch the audience. He is also known for his ability to move to the music when playing the piano.
As mentioned before, Ray specializes in multiple genres (country, gospel, R&B, etc). However, Ray is most known for pioneering the genre of soul music during the 1950s by mixing rhythm & blues and gospel.
Fellow musicians began to call Ray "The Genius," because he never worked in just one style.
He used:
- Backup Singers
- Piano
- Various Jazz Instruments (e.g. The Saxophone)
Stevie Wonder
Otis Redding
Van Morrison
What'd I Say
Released: June 1959
Album: What'd I Say
Charts: "What'd I Say" reached #1 on the R&B charts and #6 on the pop charts.
Genre: Known as the birth of the "Soul" music genre. However,"What'd I Say" is also known to many as an influential Rock 'n' Roll song.
This is a key song of Ray's career for various reasons. Ray wrote "What'd I Say" in front of an audience during a show when he ran out of material. The audience loved it and even asked Ray where they could get the record for the song. It shows true musical talent to have the ability to write and produce sound on the spot. Also, Ray is known for his ability to crossover onto pop charts. "What'd I Say" clearly shows his success with pop charts, with the song reaching #6. This song is notably one of Ray's most successful hits.

Listening Example...
I Can't Stop Loving You
Released: 1962
Album: Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music
Charts: Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music was the biggest-selling album of 1962, occupying the top spot on the Billboard album chart for 14 weeks. "I Can't Stop Loving You," held the #1 spot on the singles chart for five weeks in 1962.
Genre: Originally "I Can't Stop Loving You" was made to be a country song, however, it saw major success in the pop charts.
"I Can't Stop Loving You" is a great example of how musically diverse Ray was as an artist. Although Ray is known for his soul music, he is also a master at other genres. He can sing anything, including country western and put his own personal touch to it. It also showcases the fact that he can cross over with any genre.
Listening Example...
Georgia On My Mind
Released: September 1960
Album: The Genius Hits The Road
Charts: "Georgia On My Mind" rose to #1 on the Billboard pop charts and #3 on the R&B charts (#1 for one week).
Genre: This song can be categorized as a jazz, soul, pop, R&B, or blues song.
"Georgia On My Mind" is one of Ray's most successful songs. On March 7, 1979, Ray's cover of "Georgia On My Mind" became Georgia's state song. Take note that this song is not a Ray original. "Georgia On My Mind" is known as a testimony to Ray's cross-racial appeal. Ray's version of "Georgia On My Mind", becoming Georgia's state song, was also Ray's most prized personal success. Since Ray is from Georgia, it also shows personal roots with his past.
Later Years
-Ray received a special honor in 1986 as one of the first people inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
-Ray performed "We Are the World" for the organization USA for Africa alongside Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, and Smokey Robinson.
In 2003, Ray was forced to cancel his tour for the first time in 53 years. He underwent a successful hip replacement surgery. However, Ray soon after learned that he was suffering from liver disease. Ray Charles died on June 10, 2004, at his home in Beverly Hills, California.
Websites Used
Thanks for Listening!
Listening Example...
Full transcript