The Genius
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Ray Charles – The Genius

by

Artwork: Isaac Levy

Member Since
Dec 2019
Published Books
1

Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004) 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.”

 

Charles started losing his vision at the age of 6 due to glaucoma.

 

Charles pioneered the soul music genre during the 1950s by combining blues, rhythm and blues, and gospel styles.

1
The Genius

At age 16, Charles moved to Orlando, where he lived in borderline poverty and went without food for days.

 

In 1947, Charles moved to Tampa, where he had two jobs: one as a pianist for Charles Brantley’s Honeydippers.

 

In his early career, he modeled himself on Nat King Cole. His first four recordings—”Wondering and Wondering”, “Walking and Talking”, “Why Did You Go?” and “I Found My Baby There”—were allegedly made in Tampa, although some discographies claim he recorded them in Miami in 1951 or Los Angeles in 1952.

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Wondering and Wondering

 

 

Why did you go?

 

 

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Late in 1954, Charles recorded “I’ve Got a Woman”.

It combined gospel, jazz, and blues.

The lyrics were written by bandleader Renald Richard. Charles claimed the composition.

 

They later admitted that the song went back to The Southern Tones’ “It Must Be Jesus” (1954).

It became one of his most notable hits, reaching number two on the R&B chart.

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The Southern Tones – “It Must Be Jesus” (1954)

 

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“I’ve Got a Woman” – Ray Charles (1954)

 

 

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In 1959, “What’d I Say” reached No. 6 on the Billboard Pop chart and No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart.

“What’d I Say” combined gospel, jazz, blues and Latin music. Charles said he wrote it spontaneously while he was performing in clubs with his band.

Despite some radio stations banning the song because of its sexually suggestive lyrics, the song became his first top ten pop record.

 

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With “Georgia on My Mind” in 1960, Charles received national acclaim and four Grammy Awards.

 

Written by Stuart Gorrell and Hoagy Carmichael, the cover was Charles’s first work with Sid Feller, who produced, arranged and conducted the recording.

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“Georgia on My Mind” – Ray Charles (1960)

 

 

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“Georgia on My Mind” – Hoagy Carmichael (Music) and Stuart Gorrell (Lyrics) (1930)

 

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Charles earned another Grammy for the follow-up “Hit the Road Jack”, written by R&B singer Percy Mayfield.

 

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The 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music and its sequel (Vol. 2), helped to bring country music into the musical mainstream.

 

Charles’s version of the Don Gibson song “I Can’t Stop Loving You” topped the Pop chart for five weeks, stayed at number 1 on the R&B chart for ten weeks, and gave him his only number-one record in the UK.

 

 

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He had major pop hits in 1963 with Busted (US number 4) and Take These Chains from My Heart (US number 8).

 

 

 

 

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In 1967, he had a top-twenty hit with another ballad, “Here We Go Again”.

 

 

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Charles’s renewed chart success, however, proved to be short lived, and by the 1970s his music was rarely played on radio stations.

The rise of psychedelic rock and harder forms of rock and R&B music had reduced Charles’ radio appeal, as did his choosing to record pop standards and covers of contemporary rock and soul hits, since his earnings from owning his masters had taken away the motivation to write new material.

Charles nonetheless continued to have an active recording career.

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His 1972 album A Message from the People included his unique gospel-influenced version of “America the Beautiful” and a number of protest songs about poverty and civil rights.

 

 

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