It was 13 years ago today since we lost him, and he will certainly never be replaced. Today we pay tribute to the man they called simply the Genius: Brother Ray Charles.
Born on September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia, Charles was diagnosed as partially blind at five and completely blind at seven. Nevertheless, he saw music with more clarity than almost any pianist-singer of the 20th century. Charles helped to invent modern-day R&;B with his deeply soulful, gospel-influenced piano playing and singing, in a recording career that lasted for five and a half decades.
The great success of the 2004 biopic ‘Ray’ was just one modern-day measure of his influence and reputation in contemporary music. Jamie Foxx won Best Actor at the Oscars for his portrayal of the great man, and the following year, guested on Kanye West’s gigantic US hit ‘Gold Digger,’ which sampled Ray’s ‘I Got A Woman’ and stayed at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for ten weeks.
Charles’ own first chart appearance came just four years after the end of World War II, when he was part of the Maxin (also known as McSon) Trio. Their ‘Confession Blues’ was a big R&B record in 1949, after which Ray made the chart in his own name for the first time in 1951, on the Swing Time label, with ‘Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand.’(more…)