Ray Charles

Feb. 25, 2005, midnight | By Christopher Consolino | 16 years, 11 months ago

Ray Charles, R&B, blues and pop musician.

Born into poverty in September of 1930, loosing his sight at age seven and loosing his parents by his early teens, Ray Charles has had a lot to sing about. But, rather than sing to someone else's tune, Charles invented his own musical style, combining 1950s R&B with jazzy rhythms and blues, making him one of the foremost pioneers of soul music. Despite his blindness, Charles took to music at an early age, studying compositions and trying his hand at several instruments at the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind. After loosing his parents, Charles began working as a musician in Florida, saving his earnings and then moving to Seattle in 1947.

By the 1950s, Charles began to toughen his sound, which had been previously criticized for being too soft and mellow compared to classics of the time. He later toured with Lowell Fulsion and headed down to New Orleans to work with Guitar Slim. It wasn't until he was signed on by Atlantic Records that Charles began to find the voice and style for which he is remembered; such classic songs include "This Little Girl of Mine" and "The Right Time."

Charles also broke into the pop world with his top ten hit, "What'd I Say." Even after a year of absence from the music world (because of a heroin bust in the 1960s), Charles continued to produce hit songs like "Let's Go Get Stoned," while simultaneously incorporating more string elements into his pieces. Although some may feel that his style diminished after his 1955-1965 classics, Charles had a huge impact on Rock and Soul music for artists such as Joe Cocker and Steve Winwood, who owe a great deal of their phrasing and style to Charles.

Even up to his death, Charles was still producing records and touring the country. After his replacement surgery in 2003, Charles still scheduled a tour for the summer. Charles died a year later on June 10, 2004, leaving behind a legacy of musical brilliance many can only hope to parallel.

Last updated: May 6, 2021, 11:36 p.m.

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Christopher Consolino. Christopher Consolino is a senior in Communication Arts Program. If Chris had free time, he would spend it practicing piano and taking pictures with his 15 year-old Minolta. He would also like to stress how much better wet process photography is than digital. Most of … More »

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