Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Music Education 101:
Ray Charles

We are serious music lovers in our house. If you're a regular visitor here or at my husband's blog, you're very aware of this. We are very eclectic in our musical tastes. I was raised on good ole fashioned Country and Western music, in addition to Southern Gospel and Elvis Presley. As a teen, I delved into the music of the 60's, particularly the Beatles and the Beach Boys, in between staying in touch with what was going on on the current Top 40. Then I met a wonderful man who introduced me to things like punk, heavy metal, rockabilly, and the blues. Music has played a pivotal role in our lives and we've made a conscience effort to expose our children to all types of music. Currently, one of our favorites is Ray Charles. The kids just love his music, and being a pianist, I'm envious of his talents on the piano.

Here's a little background on Ray Charles.

Ray Charles Robinson was born in September 1930 in Albany, Georgia to Aretha Williams and Bailey Robinson. The family moved to Greenville, Florida soon after Ray's birth. Aretha and Bailey never married and he went on to have 3 other families, thereby leaving Aretha to raise Ray and his younger brother, George, on her own. George drowned in a laundry tub when Ray was five. Ray witnessed this incident and it had a profound effect upon him. Sometime after, Ray started to lose his vision and was completely blind by the age of seven. There was never a definitive reason for his loss of sight, however some sources attribute it to glaucoma. Aretha sent Ray away to a school for the blind and deaf in St. Augustine, Florida where he learned to play various musical instruments as well as compose music. At the age of seventeen, he moved to Seattle, Washington and signed his first record deal with Swingtime Records and had his first hit four years later with "Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand". A year after Ray's hit, he signed with well known Atlantic Records. Ray had many hit songs during his middle years of success, becoming one of the first artists to "crossover" from Top 40 to jazz. Ray's foray into Country and Western helped bring prominence to the genre. Later on in his career, he made cameo appearances in films and on television. He has performed for presidents, campaigned for peace, and supported the American Civil Rights Movement. Aside from the dozens of Grammy's he's won, he's accumulated many other awards including being among the first set of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Jazz Hall of Fame, and the Kennedy Center Honors just to name a very few. Much deserved tributes to him include a bronze sculpture of him in Albany, Georgia and a post office named after him in Los Angeles. At the end of his life, Ray was significantly involved in the making of the biopic, Ray going so far as to hand select the actor who eventually played him in the film. Unfortunately, Ray passed away before the film opened. Lucky for us, he lives on through his music. Here's but a taste of his abundant talent.

The song that brought him national attention: "I Got a Woman"

A song that my children go nuts for: "Hallelujah I Love Her So"


TarBabyJim said...

That was a real nice read. I knew some about Ray because I grew up in Albany GA.

Ray also recorded a song by my favorite singer-songwriter Melanie,"Look what they done to my song ma".

Again, thanks for the read.
James Baldwin
Spokane WA
My site:

Art said...

Love the RayCh as you know. I'm partial to "The Right Time"... it's a great song and always reminds me of that Cosby show episode.

I do think that Ray's experiments in country music were, um, less than pleasing to my ear. I think he should have stuck to what he did best. But when he did, wow, what an awesome talent.

Funny thing is, I don't remember Chris Thomas King from the movie. But it was a great movie. We ought to see it again sometime.

Beth said...

man, my dad loved him some Ray Charles...and so does my one son! I think he appeals to so many different people and differnet ages....

jennifer said...

Yes indeedy, I love Ray Charles too. He recorded a CD of duets with various artists and I loved that CD. It was like he could jam with anyone. There wasn't a song on that CD that wasn't just great.

Hope you have a great weekend.


....and, I love it that you play piano. It just seems right that Art has himself a musician for his girl! Not sure how I compliment MY husband's personality though.....