Ray Charles died today

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/10/ar...10CND-RAY.html

    Ray Charles, Who Reshaped American Music, Dies at 73

    Published: June 10, 2004

    Ray Charles, one of America's greatest singers and a musician who brought the essence of soul to country, jazz, rock, standards and every other style of music he touched, died today. He was 73.

    A spokesman for Mr. Charles, Jerry Digney, told Reuters that Mr. Charles had died at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif., of complications from liver disease.
    Mr. Charles reshaped American music for half a century as a singer, pianist, songwriter, bandleader and producer. He was a remarkable pianist, at home with splashy barrelhouse playing and precisely understated swing. But his playing was inevitably overshadowed by his voice, a forthright baritone steeped in the blues, strong and impure and gloriously unpredictable.

    Mr. Charles could belt like a blues shouter and croon like a pop singer, and he used the flaws and breaks in his voice to illuminate emotional paradoxes. Even in his early years, he sounded like a voice of experience, someone who had seen all the hopes and follies of humanity.

    Leaping into falsetto, stretching a word and then breaking it off with a laugh or a sob, slipping into an intimate whisper and then letting loose a whoop, Mr. Charles could sound suave or raw, brash or hesitant, joyful or desolate, insouciant or tearful, earthy or devout. He projected the primal exuberance of a field holler and the sophistication of a be-bopper; he could conjure exaltation, sorrow and determination within a single phrase.

    In the 1950's, Mr. Charles became an architect of soul music by bringing the fervor and dynamics of gospel to secular subjects. But he soon broke through any categories. By singing any song he prized-from "Hallelujah I Love Her So" to "I Can't Stop Lovin' You" to "Georgia on My Mind" to "America the Beautiful"-Mr. Charles claimed all of American music as his birthright. He made more than 60 albums, and his influence echoes through generations of rock and soul singers.

    Ray Charles Robinson was born on Sept. 23, 1930, in the small town of Albany, Ga., and grew up in Greenville, Fla. When he was 5 years old, he began losing his sight from an unknown ailment that may have been glaucoma. He became completely blind at the age of 6. But he began to learn piano, at first from a local boogie-woogie pianist, Wylie Pitman; he also soaked up gospel music at the Shiloh Baptist Church and rural blues from musicians who included Tampa Red.

    He was sent to the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind from 1937 to 1945. There, he learned to repair radios and automobiles, and he started formal piano lessons. He learned to write music in Braille and played Chopin and Art Tatum; he also learned to play clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet and organ. On the radio, he listened to swing bands, country-and-western singers and gospel quartets. "My ears were sponges, soaked it all up," he told David Ritz, who collaborated on his 1978 autobiography, "Brother Ray."

    He left school at 15, after the death of his mother, and went to Jacksonville to earn a living as a musician. He played where he could as a sideman or a solo act, taking jobs all over the state and calling himself Ray Charles to distinguish himself from the boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. He modeled himself on two urbane pianists and singers, Charles Brown and Nat (King) Cole, carefully copying their hits and imitating their inflections. After three years, he decided to put Florida far behind him and moved to Seattle. There, he formed the McSon Trio, named after its guitarist, Gosady McGee, and the "son" from Robinson. He also started an addiction to heroin that lasted for 17 years.

    Mr. Charles made his first single, "Confession Blues," in Seattle in 1949, credited to the Maxin (a different spelling of McSon) Trio. His second single, "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand" by the Ray Charles Trio, was recorded in Los Angeles in 1950 with musicians who had played with Nat Cole. The singles were hits on the "race records" (later rhythm-and-blues) charts, and Mr. Charles moved to Los Angeles.

    He joined the band led by the blues guitarist Lowell Fulson, and became its musical director. After two years of touring the United States, he left to resume his own career.
  2. 18 Comments

  3. by   SharonH, RN
    This is so sad. Ray Charles is one of my all-time favorites; his version of "Georgia on My Mind" is the only one I will listen to. Peace to him and his family.
  4. by   Mkue
    He was one of the greatest, and what an awesome voice, he will be missed.

    Rest in peace Ray :angel2:
  5. by   Havin' A Party!
    Sad news.

    Ray was an original. He kicked butt hard in so many musical ways... jazz, blues, soul, country, you name it. He brought soul / feeling to everything he did.

    Stunning pianist, organist and singer. Broke the color barrier real early on through his gift.

    Have always loved Ray's stuff. My fav rendition of "America, the Beautiful" was his.

    Another legend has passed.
  6. by   Ted
    A wonderful musician. A wonderful person. A legend.

    He will be missed.

  7. by   Blackcat99
    Ray Charles was the greatest! My mother was crazy about him.
  8. by   smk1
    my prayers go out to his family... he was truly one of the greats and will long be remembered.
  9. by   SmilingBluEyes
    i am so sad to hear this.
  10. by   donmurray
    A musical genius has gone. "Take these chains from my heart, and set me free"
  11. by   kmchugh
    A true American icon. Georgia on My Mind and America the Beautiful were his songs. We have lost a true genius. I will miss him.

    Kevin McHugh
  12. by   Energizer Bunny
    No one could croon "America the Beautiful" the way he could!
  13. by   Havin' A Party!
    Last night I thought of a story Ray used to tell.

    As you probably know, he wasn't born blind. He had a brother, and the two of them were outside taking baths one day. For some reason, the brother -- not much more than a toddler -- decided to dive down in the tub and pull the plug out. When he attempted that his little hand got stuck in the drain.

    Ray watched as his sibling struggled to free his hand unsuccessfully and then quickly drowned. Pretty horrible.

    Imagine growing up and bearing the image of the above as one of his most significant memories of sight. (And recall that back then kids didn't have the psychological support we routinely provide children now when they experience tragic experiences.)

    RIP, Mr. Charles.
  14. by   pickledpepperRN
    About a year ago he was chosen by Travis Tritt (sp?) as having the most influence on his life and career. They played and sang together.
    Ray was having the time of his life at the old home of the Oprey!
    I think as long as he could make music he was happy.