- NAME: Ray Charles
- OCCUPATION: Songwriter, Pianist, Singer
- BIRTH DATE: September 23, 1930
- DEATH DATE: June 10, 2004
- EDUCATION: Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Albany, Georgia
- PLACE OF DEATH: Beverly Hills, California
- AKA: Ray Charles
- Full Name: Ray Charles Robinson
- Nickname: "The Genius"
- Nickname: "Father of Soul"
- AKA: Ray Robinson
Best Known For
Ray Charles was a pioneer of soul music, integrating R&B, gospel, pop and country to creat hits like "Unchain My Heart," "Hit the Road Jack" and "Georgia on My Mind." A blind genius, he is considered one of the greatest artists of all time.
Ray Charles - Mini Biography (4:13)
Watch a short video about Ray Charles and learn about how he soared to the top of the music charts, only to hit rock bottom from drug abuse, and back up again.
Ray Charles was one of America's greatest musicians, pioneering the genre of soul music during the 1950s by fusing rhythm & blues, gospel and blues.
Musical legend Ray Charles describes what makes Willie Nelson so special as a singer and songwriter, and what makes his voice unique.
As Stevie Wonder's talent became the talk of his neighborhood, Ronald White, a member of the band The Miracles, heard of this blind prodigy and had to see him for himself.
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
Charles broke down the boundaries of music genres in 1962 with Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. On this album, he gave his own soulful interpretations of many country classics. While thriving creatively, Charles struggled in his personal life. He continued to battle with heroin addiction. In 1965, Charles was arrested for possession.
Charles avoided jail after his arrest for possession by finally kicking the habit at a clinic in Los Angeles. His releases in the 1960s and '70s were hit-or-miss, but he remained one of music's most respected stars. Charles won a Grammy Award for his rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City." Three years later, he released his autobiography Brother Ray.
In 1980, Charles appeared in the comedy The Blues Brothers with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. The music icon received a special honor a few years later as one of the first people inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Charles was recognized for his contributions to the genre alongside such fellow luminaries as James Brown, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke and Buddy Holly.
Charles returned to the spotlight in the early 1990s with several high-profile appearances. He also recorded commercials for Pepsi-Cola, singing "You Got the Right One, Baby!" as his catchphrase, and performed "We Are the World" for the organization USA for Africa alongside the likes of Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen and Smokey Robinson.
In 2003, Charles had to cancel his tour for the first time in 53 years. He underwent hip replacement surgery. While that operation was successful, Charles soon learned he was suffering from liver disease. He died on June 10, 2004, at his home in Beverly Hills, California. During his lifetime, Charles recorded more than 60 albums and performed more than 10,000 concerts.
Longtime friend Quincy Jones was just of many who mourned the passing of Charles. "There will never be another musician who did as much to break down the perceived walls of musical genres," Jones stated, according to The New York Times. "Ray used to say that if he had a dime, he would give me a nickel. Well, I would give that nickel back to have him still be here with us, but I know that heaven has become a much better place with him in it." More than 1,500 people came to say goodbye to the musical legend at his funeral. B.B. King, Willie Nelson and Stevie Wonder were among those who performed at the service.
Charles's final album, Genius Loves Company, released two months after his death, consists of duets with various admirers and contemporaries. His life story became a hit film entitled Ray later that year. Jamie Foxx starred as the legendary performer, and he won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Charles.
© 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.
profile name: Ray Charles profile occupation:
Sign in with Facebook to see how you and your friends are connected to famous icons.
Your Friends' Connections
Included In These Groups
Who can forget Angela Bassett as Tina Turner or Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles? Do you remember who played Billie Holiday? Or who Beyoncé performed as in the film Cadillac Records? More recent African-American biopics include the Lifetime original movie Betty & Coretta (2013), starring Angela Bassett as Coretta Scott King and Mary J. Blige as Betty Shabazz, and The Butler (2013), starring Forest Whitaker and based on the life of Eugene Allen.
View our photos of African-American biopics to compare these famous figures to the actors and actresses who have portrayed them.
African-American Biopics 39 people in this group
Truth is often more fascinating than fiction. Since the beginning of movies, actors have been portraying figures from history and bringing them to life on screen. Mastering the well-known mannerisms and characteristics of real world figures can be more challenging than portraying a fictional character. Enormous amounts of research and drastic physical transformations are not uncommon for actors wanting to properly inhabit their role on film. Whether playing a scheming Queen, a country singer, a temperamental boxer, or a pioneering writer, those performers who can accurately play the part often find Oscar gold as their reward. Here are the Academy Award-winning actors, and the larger-than-life people they portrayed.
Oscar-Winning Portrayals 70 people in this group
presented by Oscar-Winning Portrayals
With its roots in the blues, jazz has been referred to as America's classical music, yet has also become a major global phenomenon, branching off into a variety of forms. Earlier pioneers like Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton paved the way for the swinging big-band sounds of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. In contrast, contemporaries Dizzie Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk developed bebop, with its speedy, dissonant harmonies and improvisations. And Miles Davis heralded the birth of cool jazz, modal jazz and fusion at different points in his career. Famous jazz instrumentalists have tended to be male, yet women have been at the forefront of the genre when it comes to vocalization, from the brassy blues of Bessie Smith to the haunting eclecticism of Nina Simone.
Famous Jazz Musicians 29 people in this group