People we love: Ray Charles

Ray Charles, September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004

Born on this day in 1930.

Ray Charles (Born Ray Charles Robinson) was an American musical legend. He pioneered soul music in the 1950s by merging rhythm and blues, gospel and blues styles into his early recordings. He also helped racially integrate country and pop music during the 1960s.

In 2004 Charles was listed as one of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” by Rolling Stone magazine. He made number two on Rolling Stone‘s 2008 list of “100 Greatest Singers of All Time.”

When his mother died in 1946, Charles didn’t return to school but began playing piano for bands at the Ritz Theatre in LaVilla, Florida.

In 1979, Ray Charles was the first of the Georgia State Music Hall of Fame to be recognized as a musician born in the state. His version of “Georgia On My Mind” was made the official state song of Georgia.

Charles struggled with substance abuse and in 1964 was arrested for possession of marijuana and heroin. He checked himself in at St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood, California and kicked the habit. He was married twice and had 12 children by nine different women.

Charles died of liver failure and hepatitis C on June 10, 2004. He was 73.

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