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Ray Charles

Pop Musician

Born: 23 September 1930
Died: 10 June 2004 (complications from liver disease)
Birthplace: Albany, Georgia
Best known as: The singer of "Hit the Road, Jack"
Ray Charles is famous for soulful pop hits like "Georgia On My Mind," "Hit the Road, Jack," and "I Can't Stop Loving You." Blind from the age of seven, Charles was a gifted pianist and saxophonist who taught himself to compose and arrange music by Braille, then went on to become one of the most successful African-American artists of the 20th century. He began recording in the late 1940s, and in the 1950s had success with soul and gospel-influenced originals such as "Hallelujah I Love Her So" and "I Got a Woman" (covered by Elvis Presley). Charles had a 1959 rock hit with "What'd I Say" and in the 1960s had a string of hits that blended jazz, rock, soul, country and gospel. He won his first of a dozen Grammys in 1961 and was voted best male singer five years in a row (1961-66) by jazz critics in Downbeat magazine. His reputation as one of the greats secure, Charles spent the rest of his career touring and releasing occasional records, including compilations and jazz and country duets. His many famous songs include "Busted," "Ruby" "Take These Chains From My Heart" and "Crying Time." Charles's last album, Genius Loves Company, won 7 Grammy awards in 2005, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year (for "Here We Go Again," his duet with Norah Jones).
Extra credit: "Georgia On My Mind" became the official state song of Georgia in 1979... Charles was played by actor Jamie Foxx in the 2004 biographical feature Ray. Foxx won an Oscar as the year's best actor for the role... Charles's autobiography Brother Ray (written with David Ritz) was published in 1978.

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