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Sunday, 16 March 2014

Ray Charles

Ray Charles was born in Albany, Georgia on September 23, 1930 and raised in Greenville, Florida.

His name was Raymond Charles Robinson. Charles dropped the "Robinson" from his name as a young performer to avoid confusion with boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.

Ray Charles started playing the piano at the age of three. "I was born with music inside me," he said. "And from the moment I learned there were piano keys to be mashed, I started mashing 'em, trying to make sounds out of feelings."

Charles started to lose his sight at the age of five and went completely blind by the age of seven, most likely due to glaucoma.

Ray Charles studied composition and began playing piano and saxophone while attending the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, Florida.

Charles left school after his mother died in 1946, when he was 15 years old making him an orphan (his father had died five years earlier).

Jack Lauderdale, one of the first black record label owners, signed Charles to the Downbeat label, for whom Charles had his first hit in 1949, "Confession Blues." The recording session for "Confession Blues" was noteworthy for another reason - Charles recorded it while there was a musicians' strike. The union fined him $600 - his life savings at that point - for the infraction.

Ray Charles recorded his version of Don Gibson's."I Can't Stop Loving You" at United Studios in California on February 15, 1962. The tune would go on to top both the US and UK charts and would be included on the LP Modern Sounds In Country / Western Music, which would lead the Billboard album chart for 14 weeks.

He  was described by Frank Sinatra as ‘the only genius in our business.’

Photo of Ray Charles at Grammy Awards rehearsal 

Despite his blindness, Ray Charles was a chess-playing fanatic who was known to set up games between sets and concerts.

Ray Charles started a foundation to help those with hearing disorders because while he did not believe his blindness was a handicap, he believed it was a handicap to not be able to hear music.

Charles was the father of 12 children by ten women.

Charles had to deal with a longstanding heroin problem. In the mid-1960s, he was arrested for possession of heroin and marijuana at Boston airport and revealed that he had been addicted for close to 20 years. By 1965, he had completely recovered.

Source Ray Charles Artistfacts

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