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Ray Charles

Ray Charles was the musician most responsible for developing soul music. Singers like Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson also did a great deal to pioneer the form, but Charles did even more to devise a new form of black pop by merging '50s R&B with gospel-powered vocals, adding plenty of flavor from contemporary jazz, blues, and (in the '60s) country. Then there was his singing; his style was among the most emotional and easily identifiable of any 20th century performer, up there with the likes of Elvis and Billie Holiday. He was also a superb keyboard player, arranger, and bandleader. The brilliance of his 1950s and '60s work, however, can't obscure the fact that he made few classic tracks after the mid-'60s, though he recorded often and performed until the year before his death.

Blind since the age of six (from glaucoma), Charles studied composition and learned many instruments at the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind. His parents had died by his early teens, and he worked as a musician in Florida for a while before using his savings to move to Seattle in 1947. By the late '40s, he was recording in a smooth pop/R&B style derivative of Nat "King" Cole and Charles Brown. He got his first Top Ten R&B hit with "Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand" in 1951. Charles' first recordings came in for their fair share of criticism, as they were much milder and less original than the classics that would follow, although they're actually fairly enjoyable, showing strong hints of the skills that were to flower in a few years.

In the early '50s, Charles' sound started to toughen as he toured with Lowell Fulson, went to New Orleans to work with Guitar Slim (playing piano on and arranging Slim's huge R&B hit, "The Things That I Used to Do"), and got a band together for R&B star Ruth Brown. It was at Atlantic Records that Ray Charles truly found his voice, consolidating the gains of recent years and then some with "I Got a Woman," a number-two R&B hit in 1955. This is the song most frequently singled out as his pivotal performance, on which Charles first truly let go with his unmistakable gospel-ish moan, backed by a tight, bouncy horn-driven arrangement.

Throughout the '50s, Charles ran off a series of R&B hits that, although they weren't called "soul" at the time, did a lot to pave the way for soul by presenting a form of R&B that was sophisticated without sacrificing any emotional grit. "This Little Girl of Mine," "Drown in My Own Tears," "Hallelujah I Love Her So," "Lonely Avenue," and "The Right Time" were all big hits. But Charles didn't really capture the pop audience until "What'd I Say," which caught the fervor of the church with its pleading vocals, as well as the spirit of rock & roll with its classic electric piano line. It was his first Top Ten pop hit, and one of his final Atlantic singles, as he left the label at the end of the '50s for ABC.

One of the chief attractions of the ABC deal for Charles was a much greater degree of artistic control of his recordings. He put it to good use on early-'60s hits like "Unchain My Heart" and "Hit the Road Jack," which solidified his pop stardom with only a modicum of polish attached to the R&B he had perfected at Atlantic. In 1962, he surprised the pop world by turning his attention to country & western music, topping the charts with the "I Can't Stop Loving You" single, and making a hugely popular album (in an era in which R&B/soul LPs rarely scored high on the charts) with Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. Perhaps it shouldn't have been so surprising; Charles had always been eclectic, recording quite a bit of straight jazz at Atlantic, with noted jazz musicians like David "Fathead" Newman and Milt Jackson.

Charles remained extremely popular through the mid-'60s, scoring big hits like "Busted," "You Are My Sunshine," "Take These Chains From My Heart," and "Crying Time," although his momentum was slowed by a 1965 bust for heroin. This led to a year-long absence from performing, but he picked up where he left off with "Let's Go Get Stoned" in 1966. Yet by this time Charles was focusing increasingly less on rock and soul, in favor of pop tunes, often with string arrangements, that seemed aimed more at the easy listening audience than anyone else. Charles' influence on the rock mainstream was as apparent as ever; Joe Cocker and Steve Winwood in particular owe a great deal of their style to him, and echoes of his phrasing can be heard more subtly in the work of greats like Van Morrison.

One approaches sweeping criticism of Charles with hesitation; he was an American institution, after all, and his vocal powers barely diminished over his half-century career. The fact remains, though, that his work after the late '60s on record was very disappointing. Millions of listeners yearned for a return to the all-out soul of his 1955-1965 classics, but Charles had actually never been committed to soul above all else. Like Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley, his focus was more upon all-around pop than many realize; his love of jazz, country, and pop standards was evident, even if his more earthy offerings were the ones that truly broke ground and will stand the test of time. He dented the charts (sometimes the country ones) occasionally, and commanded devoted international concert audiences whenever he felt like it. For good or ill, he ensured his imprint upon the American mass consciousness in the 1990s by singing several ads for Diet Pepsi. He also recorded three albums during the '90s for Warner Bros., but remained most popular as a concert draw. In 2002, he released Thanks for Bringing Love Around Again on his own Crossover imprint, and the following year began recording an album of duets featuring B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Michael McDonald, and James Taylor. After hip replacement surgery in 2003, he scheduled a tour for the following summer, but was forced to cancel an appearance in March 2004. Three months later, on June 10, 2004, Ray Charles succumbed to liver disease at his home in Beverly Hills, CA. The duets album, Genius Loves Company, was released two months after his death. The biopic Ray hit screens in the fall of 2010 and was a critical and commercial success, with the actor who portrayed Charles in the move, Jamie Foxx, winning the 2005 Academy Award for Best Actor for his role. Two more posthumous albums, Genius & Friends and Ray Sings, Basie Swings, appeared in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Charles' recordings began reappearing in various facsimile editions, reissues, re-masters, and box sets as his entire recorded legacy received the attention that befits a legendary American artist. ~ Richie Unterberger $ Steve Leggett
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4
Disc 5

Comments

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This man had some kinda talent.....A great voice, and a master of the 88s, and above all, a fantastic showman..... . T h a n k s Pandora for making all of this hard to find music. The Pandora basement must be filled to rafters with music. Thanks Tim W. for starting Pandora.
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updikeiol514
Guys, if you have some free time check out ATOCE.COM this is an easy way to make around $400 per week and it's pretty easy to get started. Hope this helps (Share this method if it works for you). ❤️❤️❤️❤️
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dtolsonocoke
Ray and Norah Jones, what a combo.....WO W
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shireioh419
Guys, if you have some free time check out ATOCE.COM this is an easy way to make around $400 per week and it's pretty easy to get started. Hope this helps (Share this method if it works for you). ❤️❤️❤️❤️
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Seven Spanish Angels:a real tear jerker. I sing along with this,no matter if is ray's or willie's album.
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loissroka
Seven Spanish Angels: A real tear jerker. I sing along with this, no matter if is Ray's or Willie's album.
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The very best
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A musical prodigy. R.I.P
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Love Ray Charles .
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Love. This. One. I. Know. That's. Right.
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Love this song
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dianabensonb u r n s
I love it
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This is one of my favorite songs --- love, romance, and heart break wrapped up in one beautiful song.
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I love this song !!!!!�������
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I always loved this song - Georgia On My Mind. Both my husband and I wanted to name a daughter Georgia. We did, with our first girl, who was born on the same day that Ray Charles died. I like to think he would have approved, and that they are kindred spirits somehow. She loves to sing.
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Beautiful wonderful
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Love his music!!!!!
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I STILL LOVE RAY CHARLES!!!!!
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If you don't love and respect Ray Charles your messed up. This man is a legend :) My favorite singer who ever lived.
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I am a "FOREVER FAN" of RAY
CHARLES !!!
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Remember attending a "RAY CHARLES " concert in SEATTLE , WA with my close sister (only one) during the early 1960's !!!! WOW !! Amazing singer , his sound is so great with his music ..... .... My son did an autobiograph y concerning Ray
Charles when in grade school or junior high later in the 80's ..... So Cool , Awesome !!!!
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Ray Charles
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hezekiahbett y h u l l
Ray Charles
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Sounds like a jerk in his personal life. BUT, I never knew the man personally. I DO know his music and for that the man KICKS FUQIN AZZ!!!!!!!! Any age, Any day, Any season. I Love His Music!!
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Incredible
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Jordon hit the road jack and don't you come back no more
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Ray Charles you were AWESOME!!! You are truly missed. Love you much
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Mo so called bro. At one time it was his song n papacoming back from vacation and I'm says I hope he's gone when I get there is gone then the Sun came up send you found the right girl
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THKS, RAY R.I.P.
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Icantstoplov i n g y o u
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Mr sensational
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This song reminds me of my neighbor, always wanted to bang her..... No luck
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Mailk
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Wow this is my Boyfriend favorite back in the Day, He will never be forgotten My First Love!!!
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A wonderful. Artist
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what an amazing composer, he actually made the world a better place
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Tyrone davis


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HIT THE ROAD JACK, DONT YOU COME BACK NO MORE!
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Hit the road Jack
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So many memories.... I love this song!
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Come rain or come shine i'm a forever fan rays da best
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This has always been a fave of mine. They should have let Jamie sing this in the movie.
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wow he touchs my soul love Ray
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A GREAT man.GOD BLESS HIM.
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Ray is a legend!
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I think that this is a very good artist , and a great singer!!��
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rf2nd
His Cincinnati Kid movie theme song is the best sound track tune ever.
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Elton and I have a "thing"!
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He is one of the geniuses of all times. A legend in his own right
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Yil
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