On June 10, 2004, Ray Charles Robinson died aged 74. He was a singer, songwriter, musician, and composer, regarded as one of the most important artists in the history of modern music, referred to as “The Genius”.
Charles is important not only as a pioneer in combining rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues into soul music but he also played the main role in the racial integration of country and pop music – he was one of the first African-American musicians who gained artistic control by a mainstream record company.
In 2004, “Rolling Stone” magazine ranked Charles at number ten on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” and number two on the 2008 list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”.
Frank Sinatra: The only true genius in show business.
Billy Joel: This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley.
Henry Pleasants (music critic and musicologists): Sinatra, and Bing Crosby before him, had been masters of words. Ray Charles is a master of sounds. His records disclose an extraordinary assortment of slurs, glides, turns, shrieks, wails, breaks, shouts, screams and hollers, all wonderfully controlled, disciplined by inspired musicianship, and harnessed to ingenious subtleties of harmony, dynamics and rhythm… It is either the singing of a man whose vocabulary is inadequate to express what is in his heart and mind or of one whose feelings are too intense for satisfactory verbal or conventionally melodic articulation. He can’t tell it to you. He can’t even sing it to you. He has to cry out to you, or shout to you, in tones eloquent of despair—or exaltation. The voice alone, with little assistance from the text or the notated music, conveys the message.
Awards and honors
- In 1979 – induction into the Georgia State Music Hall of Fame. Charles’ version of “Georgia on my mind” was also made the official state song for Georgia.
- In 1981 – star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,
- In 1986 – induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
- In 1986 – awarded with the Kennedy Center Honors
- In 1987 – awarded with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
- In 1991- induction to the Rhythm & Blues Foundation
- In 1991 – awarded with the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement
- In 1993 – awarded the National Medal of Arts.
- In 1998 – awarded with the Polar Music Prize
- In 2004 – induction to the National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall of Fame
- In 2003 – awarded an honorary degree by Dillard University
- In 2005 – The Grammy Awards were dedicated to Ray Charles
- In 2010 – Performing arts center at Morehouse College was named after Ray Charles
- In 2013 – The United States Postal Service issued a forever stamp honoring Ray Charles as part of it Musical Icons