The epitome of musical versatility

June 12, 2004, midnight | By Danielle Foster | 18 years, 5 months ago

For over half a century, Ray Charles wowed the world

Information in this story was compiled from the Washington post article "The Soul of a genius," by Richard Harrington.

Ray Charles died at the age of 73 from complications from liver disease in Los Angles on Thursday. What may have been the most soulful voice on earth was silenced.

The 12-time Grammy winner had the exceptional privilege of being enshrined in the Rhythm and Blues, Rock and Jazz Halls of fame. He sang with a plethora of musicians but in his mind, it was all music. "What he sensed were not the divisions, the differences, but the shared goals of storytelling and personal expression," said the Washington Post. Last summer, Charles performed his 10,000th concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.

Aretha Franklin, also known as the "Queen of Soul," deemed Charles, "the Righteous Reverend Ray." He brought soul to the fore in 1954 with "I've Got a Woman," his reworded version of "Jesus Is All the World to Me." That was Charles's first No. 1 R&B hit, a mélange of horns, gospel and the undeniable feel of blues.

From childhood on…

Glaucoma took Charles', born Ray Charles Robinson, sight at the age of seven. He then learned to listen and while attending the State School for Deaf and Blind Children in St. Augustine, Florida he mastered Braille, the piano, the trumpet, the clarinet, the clarinet and the saxophone. By the time he was orphaned at the age of 15, Charles' was able to get jobs in Seattle as a pianist, singer and arranger. To this day, "few rock, pop, blues and even jazz piano player today were not influenced and transformed by his artistry," said the Washington Post.

Ray Charles worked his way up through the ranks to be part of the Big Band era. In the late 50's, he made a break through melting blues and gospel to create soul. "In style and attitude, blues and gospel were as far apart as heaven and hell: one affirmed the spiritual release of the afterlife, while the other confirmed the pain and heartache of the here and now," the Washington Post explained. In addition to creating a new form of music, he secularized gospel without taking away from it. As if that is not enough, Ray Charles was among the first to transcend into a largely white audience without altering himself.

A decade later, Charles' got involved with what was then called the "Modern Sounds of Country and Western Music." He won a pop Grammy for "Georgia on My Mind," and an R&B Grammy in 1961 for "Hit the Road Jack." The result of Ray Charles' work in country was a Grammy in 1962 for "I Can't Stop Loving You."
As an artist, Ray Charles did not allow himself to be hindered by race, musical genre and financial status. In August, Concord will release his last record, "Genius Loves Company;" a set of duets with Norah Jones, B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Gladys Knight, Elton John, Johnny Mathis, James Taylor and the list goes on.

Ray Charles was able to amass one of the most varied audiences a musician could want. He touched people the world over with his art. With his visionary work, advancing music and creating new forms of it, Ray Charles was one of the most influential artists to grace the music industry.

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Danielle Foster. Danielle is a senior and all she can say is "it's about time". Now 17, driving, and close to completing the Communication Arts Program, she is ready to graduate on June second. This is her last year at Blair though, and she plans to make … More »

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