Ray Charles started out from nowhere.

Now he has returned to nowhere. He died on June 10, 2004 from liver failure. He was 73 years old.

The name Ray Charles is on a Star on Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame. His bronze bust is enshrined in the Playboy Hall of Fame. There is the bronze medallion cast and presented to him by the French Republic on behalf of its people. There are the Halls of Fame: Rhythm & Blues, Jazz, Rock & Roll. There are the many gold records and the 12 Grammys...

"I was born with music inside me. That's the only explanation I know of..."

"Music was one of my parts... Like my blood. It was a force already with me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me - like food or water."

"Music is nothing separate from me. It is me... You'd have to remove the music surgically."

Ray Charles Robinson was not born blind, only poor on September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia.
By the early 1960's Ray Charles had come of age musically.
He'd made it to Carnegie Hall.
The hit records ("Georgia," "Born to Lose") successively kept climbing to the top of the charts.
Rhythm & blues (or "race music" as it had been called) became universally respectable through his efforts. Jazz found a mainstream audience it had never previously enjoyed. And country & western music began to chart an unexpected course to general acceptance, then worldwide popularity. Along the way Ray Charles was instrumental in the invention of rock & roll.

In 1966 Thomas Thompson wrote in his profile of Ray Charles for Life Magazine:

"...his niche is difficult to define. The best blues singer around? Of course, but don't stop there. He is also an unparalled singer of jazz, of gospel, of country and western.

This is an entry from Ray's autobiography

When I was a kid three years old, I was already trying -- whenever I heard a note -- I was already trying to involve myself with it. There was this wonderful man named Wylie Pitman who was one of the first people to encourage me. As a youngster I would jump in the chair next to him and start banging on the piano keys while he was trying to practice. And he would say, "Oh no, son, you don't play like that; you don't hit the keys with all your fingers at one time. I'm going to show you how to play a little melody with one finger." He could have easily said, "Hey kid, don't you see I'm practicing? Get away, don't bother me." But instead he took the time to say, "No, you don't do it that way." When Mr. Pitman started playing, whatever I was doing I'd stop to go in and sit on that little stool chair he had there.

Things started changing fast shortly after that. I guess the first major tragedy in my life was seeing my younger brother drown when I was about five years old. He was about a year younger, and a very smart kid. I remember that well; he was very bright. He could add and subtract numbers when he was three-and-a-half years old. The older people in the neighborhood, they used to say about him, "That boy is too smart. He's probably not going to be very long on this earth." You know old folks, the superstitions they have.

Anyway, we were out in the backyard one day while my mom was in the house ironing some clothes. We were playing by a huge metal washtub full of water. And we were having fun the way boys do, pushing and jostling each other around. Now, I never did know just how it happened, but my brother somehow tilted over the rim of this tub and fell down, slid down into the water and slipped under. At first I thought he was still playing, but it finally dawned on me that he wasn't moving, he wasn't reacting. I tried to pull him out of the water, but by that time his clothes had gotten soaked through with water and he was just too heavy for me. So I ran in and got my mom, and she raced out back and snatched him out of the tub. She shook him, and breathed into his mouth, and pumped his little stomach, but it was too late.

It was quite a trauma for me, and after that I started to lose my sight. I remember one of the things they tried to save my sight for as long as they could was to have my mama keep me away from too much light. It took me about two years to completely lose all sight, but by the time I was seven, I was completely blind. That's when I went to St. Augustine's school for the blind.

Strangely enough, losing my sight wasn't quite as bad as you'd think, because my mom conditioned me for the day that I would be totally blind. When the doctors told her that I was gradually losing my sight, and that I wasn't going to get any better, she started helping me deal with it by showing me how to get around, how to find things. That made it a little bit easier to deal with. My mother was awful smart, even though she'd only gotten to fourth grade. She had knowledge all her own; knowledge of human nature, plus plenty of common sense.

History of Hits: The folowing data is included...
name of the song, date it hit the charts, highest position it reached and the number of weeks it was on the chart

Swanee River Rock 11/25/57 34 1
What'd I Say (Part 1) 7/20/59 6 11
I'm Movin' On 12/14/59 40 1
Sticks And Stones 8/8/60 40 1
Georgia 10/10/60 10
Ruby 12/12/60 28 5
One Mint Julep 3/27/61 8 9
Hit The Road Jack 9/18/61 1 11
Unchain My Heart 12/4/61 9 10
Hide 'Nor Hair 4/21/62 20 4
I Can't Stop Loving You 5/19/62 1` 14
You Don't Know Me 8/4/62 2 9
You Are My Sunshine 12/1/62 7 9
Your Cheating Heart 12/8/62 29 5
Don't Set Me Free 3/16/63 20 4
Take These Chains From My Heart 4/27/63 8 8
No One 7/6/63 21 5
Without Love (There Is Nothing) 7/6/63 29 4
Busted 9/14/63 4 11
That Lucky Old Sun 12/21/63 20 7
My Heart Cries For You 3/21/64 38 2
Baby, Don't You Cry 3/21/64 39 1
Crying Time 1/15/66 6 9
Together Again 4/16/66 19 5
Let's Go Get Stoned 6/25/66 31 4
I Chose To Sing The Blues 10/1/66 32 2
Here We Go Again 6/10/67 15 9
In The Heat Of The Night 9/23/67 33 3
Yesterday 12/2/67 25 3
Eleanor Rigby 7/20/68 35 3
Don't Change On Me 4/17/71 36 4
Booty Butt 5/15/71 36 2

Many thanks to Raycharles.com most of this info was gleaned from.

Long before I knew we had so much in common, I knew him as a man and a voice that touched my heart. His voice made me feel like I wanted to love deeper, to care more and reach out and touch the world.________Stevie Wonder

When Ray Charles passed away last week at the age of 73, I felt amiss at not noding a tribute, but inept at granting the praise he so highly deserved. You see Ray Charles meant the world to me; he introduced me to "the feeling" that music everywhere generates. The way music has evolved in the last 50 years has been magnanimous and for me it began with the music of Ray Charles.

The youth of today hardly recognizes that back in the fifties, the sound of rock was just being developed. Before that it was mostly big band, jazz, or the incredible melodic serenading by voices that belonged to Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett (nothing wrong with that). The earliest piece of what would become rock may have been kicked out by Bill Haley and the Comets, but in the fifties in the south, black music took on a whole new taste; and we began to be moved by a different beat, one filled with soul that touched one in the intermost parts of the psyche. Groups like The Drifters, The Coasters, The Pretenders and Hank Ballard and the Midnighters were already filling the air waves with music that moved. Then a young fellow raised on the same music, music filled with the guitar twang of the blues, music imbibed with an electrical sensual take that absolutey moved you in a way never experienced before; that's when Elvis arrived and put new notes and moves in a here-to-before unknown path.

I think it was a year or two after that, that one of the most sensational voices to ever vocalize hit the air waves. In Atlanta, where I grew up, a black radio station(WAOK) hosted by an albino African American by the name of Piano Red began playing music by Ray Charles. To use a more recent term, my buddies and myself were blown away. We were enraptured by this groovy rendition that we came to know as soul.

Then came the night none of us would ever forget, May 28, 1959. Mr. Charles was in town for a live concert, to be held in what would come to be known as the hood. In a naturally segregated town at that time, Ray would be playing at a high school football stadium, Herndon, I believe was the name, and on that fatefull night my friends and I attended, we had no problem blending in with a predominately black crowd. We spent many nights at a downtown club called The Royal Peacock to listen to the likes of Ike and Tina Turner. And tonight it was Ray Charles, live and in person and recording said concert for what would become one of his earliest albums entitled Ray Charles in Person, an album I would come to believe on which if you listened hard enough you could hear me scream somewhere during the playing of What'd I Say. Needless to say, we were mesmerized and tranfixed on this blind young man at the piano filling the night air with a most dynamic vioce unlike any others before or since. Once again, Piano Red and station WAOK were there recording with one microphone a hundred feet in front of center stage, recording for prosperity. Accompanied by the screaming voice of Ms. Marjorie Hendricks backing Ray on such tunes as The Night Time is the Right Time, and certainly that night it was, but it was just the beginning for Ray, just the beginning.

Throughout the next 46 years, Ray Charles touched every variation of musical roots conceivable. When he tackled country, we were a little taken aback, but soon realized, that old voice could make anything sound good, and he did. From patriotic to jazz to soul to the blues, whatever Ray touched turned to gold and kept his blind eyes shining none-the-less. In the course of those travels and musical variations, Ray taught me to appreciate the beauty of all music. I could never thank him enough, but at least here I can say thanks for allowing me to appreciate Tool as well as Lucinda Williams and Sting and Tupac and Lenny Kravitz and whoever has the courage and the talent to pay it forward and share it with us all, just as you did Ray. Thanks. R.I.P.

Stevie Wonder quote from:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/19/arts/19charles.html

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