Ray Charles

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Charles, Ray

(Ray Charles Robinson), 1930–2004, African-American musician and composer, b. Albany, Ga. Blinded at age seven, he was raised in Florida and at 16 began singing in a local hillbilly group. Two years later he moved to Seattle, where he formed his own trio. Charles rose to fame in the 1950s singing rhythm-and-blues tunes in an exuberant yet sophisticated style to the accompaniment of his piano and band. He had his first national recorded hit, "I've Got a Woman," in 1955. Combining sacred styles with the secular and rooted in gospel musicgospel music,
American religious musical form that owes much of its origin to the Christian conversion of West Africans enslaved in the American South. Gospel music partly evolved from the songs slaves sang on plantations, notably work songs, and from the Protestant hymns they
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 and the blues, his work infused soul into a variety of genres, and it influenced, and was influenced by, jazzjazz,
the most significant form of musical expression of African-American culture and arguably the most outstanding contribution the United States has made to the art of music. Origins of Jazz

Jazz developed in the latter part of the 19th cent.
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 and rock musicrock music,
type of music originating in the United States in the mid-1950s and increasingly popular throughout much of the world. Origins of Rock

Essentially hybrid in origin, rock music includes elements of several black and white American music styles: black
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. Among Charles's greatest hits were "Whad'd I Say" (1959), "Georgia on My Mind" (1960), and his soulful rendition of "America the Beautiful" (1984). An outstanding live performer, he also recorded more than 60 albums and won 12 Grammy awards. He was inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Bibliography

See his autobiography (1978); biographies by D. Ritz (1978) and M. Lydon (1998).

Charles, Ray (b. Ray Charles Robinson)

(1930–  ) singer, pianist, composer; born in Albany, Ga. He lost his sight (from glaucoma) when he was six and attended a school for the blind where he learned to read and write music in braille and play piano and organ. Orphaned at age 15, he left school and began playing music to earn a living, moving to Seattle, Wash., in 1947. Dropping his last name, he performed at clubs in the smooth lounge-swing style of Nat "King" Cole. After some hits on Swing Time Records, he switched to Atlantic Records in 1952 and began to develop a rougher blues and gospel style. For New Orleans bluesman, Guitar Slim, he arranged and played piano on "The Things I Used To Do" (1953); the record sold a million copies. He went on to record his own "I've Got a Woman" in 1955 with an arrangement of horns, gospel-style piano, and impassioned vocals that led to the gospel-pop and soul music of the 1960s and to his hit "What'd I Say" (1959). Possessing a multifaceted talent, he recorded with jazz vibist Milt Jackson, made a country and western album that sold 3 million copies (1962), and continued to release a variety of pop hits, Broadway standards, and blues, gospel, and jazz albums. A major influence on popular black music during his early years, he gradually reached out to influence both white musicians and audiences. And although he had been convicted of using drugs in the 1950s, he lived to see the day when he was so acceptable to mainstream Americans that he became virtually the chief image for promoting Pepsi-Cola and he was asked to perform at many national patriotic and political events.
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