Ray Charles Robinson was an American singer-songwriter, musician, and composer. Among friends and fellow musicians, he preferred being called “Brother Ray.” He was often referred to as “The Genius.” Take a look below for 30 more fun and interesting facts about Ray Charles.
1. Charles was blind from the age of seven.
2. He pioneered the soul music genre during the 1950s by combining blues, rhythm and blues, and gospel styles into the music he recorded for Atlantic Records.
3. He contributed to the integration of country music, rhythm and blues, and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, most notably with his two Modern Sounds albums.
4. While he was with ABC, Charles became one of the first black musicians to be granted artistic control by a mainstream record company.
5. Charles cited Nat King Cole as a primary influence, but his music was also influenced by country, jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues artists of the day, including Louis Jordan and Charles Brown.
6. He became friends with Quincy Jones. Their friendship lasted until the end of Charles’s life.
7. Frank Sinatra called Ray Charles, “the only true genius in show business,” although Charles downplayed this notion.
8. In 2002, Rolling Stone ranked Charles number ten on its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time,” and number two on their November 2008 list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time.”
9. Charles was born to Aretha and Bailey Robinson in Albany, Georgia.
10. He was diagnosed with glaucoma at a very young age and by the age of seven, he had become completely blind.
11. He studied at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind from 1937 to 1945, during which time, he honed his musical skills.
12. By the time he was 15 years old, both of his parents were dead and he was orphaned. However, he didn’t let his personal losses deter him from pursuing a musical career.
13. In school, he had shown a great interest in learning jazz and blues music, as he was taught only classical music.
14. He later worked as a register boy under the direction of a girl at a drug store, in Tallahassee.
15. He joined a number of local bands in Tallahassee, which further heightened his interest in music, such as the “Florida A&M University Student Band” and the “Adderley Brothers.”
16. He was soon noticed for his musical talent and he began performing in a number of clubs and was even invited for the Governor’s Ball.
17. “Georgia on my Mind” is a single that was released for his 1960 album, “The Genius Hits the Road.”
18. After “Georgia on my Mind” 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. The song also became the state song of Georgia in 1979.
19. “Hit the Road Jack,” another one of his singles released in 1960, went on to become one of his greatest works.
20. “Hit the Road Jack” stayed at the number 1 position for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and also earned him a Grammy Award.
21. In 1987, he was presented the “Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.”
22. In 1991, he was inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Foundation.
23. Charles was honored with the National Medal of Arts in 1993.
24. Charles was inducted into the National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2004.
25. The Grammy Awards in 2005 were all dedicated to Ray Charles.
26. He married Eileen Williams in 1951, but divorced her the following year.
27. In 1955, he married Della Beatrice Howard Robinson. The marriage lasted for two decades.
28. Apart from his two marriages, he was in a relationship with Norma Pinella, who stayed with him until his death.
29. He had 12 children in total with ten different women.
30. In 1961, he was arrested after marijuana, heroin and other drugs were seized from his room. He was addicted to drugs during his lifetime and he responded to this addiction in comeback songs like “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and “Let’s Go Get Stoned.”