A Tribute to Ray Charles


Ray was born in 1930 in Albany, Georgia. Ray Charles Robinson was the son of Bailey and Aretha Robinson.

Probably the strongest element in Ray Charles’ life, and the most concentrated driving force, was music. Ray often said,

I was born with music inside me. That’s the only explanation I know.”

In school, Charles was taught only classical music, but he wanted to play the jazz and blues he heard on the family radio. Ray sat at a piano and the music began; he opened his mouth and the lyrics began. He was in absolute control.

At 15 years old, Ray Charles was an orphan, but he still managed to make his way in this world under very trying conditions; Ray refused to roll over and play dead. Instead he continued his education in St. Augustine, at Florida’s State School for the Deaf and Blind. A few years later, Ray decided to move. His choice was Seattle, Washington. It was in Seattle that Ray recorded his first record. It was also in Seattle that the seed was planted for a lifelong friendship with Quincy Jones.

In the decades since Seattle, Ray Charles made his contributions to the many facets of music in which he excelled. His awards are too numerous to mention all of them, but we would like to acknowledge eight honorary doctoral degrees, seventeen Grammys, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and his  President’s Merit Award. He has been recognized repeatedly by Heads of State, Presidents, Premieres, Political Dignitaries and members of Royal families. He was chosen, by the King and Queen of Sweden, to receive the Polar Music Award, which is that country’s most prestigious award and is recognized the world over. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #10 on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” and #2 on their list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time.”

Ray Charles, the piano man with the bluesy voice who reshaped American music for a half-century, bringing the essence of soul to country, jazz, rock, standards and every other style of music he touched.


He brought his influence to bear as a performer, 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. He 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.   Ray Charles died at 73 years old on June 10, 2004.

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From San Diego Symphony: During the 2011–2012 Pops Season, The San Diego Symphony paid tribute to Ray Charles. The San Diego Symphony invited Mr. Ellis Hall, virtuoso multi-instrumentalist and vocalist.

On stage at The Kennedy Center in front of President Clinton and Ray Charles, Ellis was introduced:“Mr. Charles has asked that Ellis perform this evening. Though he is sightless, his vision is greater than ours.”

Source: From New York Times, 2004 — Article by Jon Pareles and Bernard Weinraub