Ray Charles Robinson was born in Albany, Georgia on September 23, 1930. At the age of seven years he was totally blind and attended school at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, Florida as a charity case, where he learned how to read braille, write music and play various musical instruments.
Entering show business he adopted the name Ray Charles and began playing in several bands that played in various styles including jazz and country music.
At the age of 17 he moved to Seattle and began recording, but it was not until 1955 that he begin to achieve success as a recording artist with his “I Got A Woman” and Hallelujah I Love Her So.” It was “What’d I Say” in 1959 that introduced him to Top 40 radio and gave him his first top ten hit. Among his more than 70 visits to the Hit Parade were three number one chart toppers,“Georgia On My Mind,” “Hit The Road Jack” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and seven top ten hits, “One Mint Julep,” “Unchain My Heart,” “You Don’t Know Me,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “Take These Chains From My Heart,” “Busted” and “Crying Time. Ray Charles brought a soulful sound to pop and country music including his famous rendition of “America the Beautiful” that has become an America classic.
Besides winning dozens of Grammy Awards in his career, Ray Charles was also honored in many other ways. In 1976 he was one of the first honorees of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame being recognized for being a musician born in the state, a full three years before his version of “Georgia On My Mind” was named the official state song.
Ray Charles died of acute liver disease at 73 years of age on June 10, 2004 at his home in Beverly Hills, California and was laid to rest at Inglewood Park Cemetery.
In 1981, he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was one of the first inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. He was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2007.