Tuesday, February 19th: RAY CHARLES
Ray Charles was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer, known for pioneering the soul music genre during the 1950s by combining blues, rhythm and blues, and gospel styles.
Charles lost his sight at the age of 7 from glaucoma, but when on to study music at the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind. After his mother died when he was 15, he left school to support himself by playing music professionally. He quickly became known in jazz circles around Florida but left to Seattle where he worked alongside artists such as Quincy Jones and Dizzy Gillespie.
He first modeled his music in the style of Nat King Cole, but after his arrangement for Guitar Slim’s “The Things That I Used to Do” became a blues million-seller in 1953, Charles signed on to Atlantic Records and settled into his own. Singles like “I’ve Got a Woman,” “Drown in My Own Tears,” and “What’d I Say” became top hits, crossing gospel, jazz, blues, and soul genres.
Charles impact on the music industry is immeasurable, with artists such as Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Pink Floyd, and Van Morrison citing him as an influence. Throughout his career, Charles never stopped pursuing soul; “It’s a force that can light a room. The force radiates from a sense of selfhood, a sense of knowing where you’ve been and what it means. Soul is a way of life—but it’s always the hard way." Charles remained active as a performer and recording artist up to his death in 2004 at age 73.