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Brother Ray Charles – What’d I Say?

What Was Ray Charles’ Early Life Like?

If anyone besides Little Richard can be considered equally as or more responsible for the creation of soul music, then it is definitely Ray Charles.

Born to a single mother who worked as a sharecropper in 1930, Charles’ early life was spent in Greenville, Florida. He was raised mainly by his mother and his paternal grandmother, and his childhood was filled with poverty and incidents of strife. His younger brother George died at only the age of four, and Ray began to lose his sight at four or five. By the age of seven, Charles was completely blind, likely as a result of glaucoma, and went to a special school for the blind and deaf.

Ray Charles’ initial curiosity in music started when he was three years old, as he would watch the owner of a local Cafe, Wylie Pitman, play boogie woogie piano. Pitman eventually taught Charles how to play the piano, and later on he learned how to read music in braille whilst studying at school. Eventually, he began to play for the school in assemblies, and became adept at classical music leading him to focus on jazz, blues, and country.

At the age of 14, Charles’ mother suddenly died, bringing a second tragic loss of family to his early life. Shortly after, he was expelled from his school for playing a prank on a teacher.

When Did Ray Charles Begin Playing Professionally?

After leaving his school, Ray Charles relocated to Jacksonville to live with his late mother’s friends. It was around this time that he began to earn a small living by playing the piano for bands performing on stage, which helped him gain local recognition as a talented musician. Despite this, Charles left Jacksonville at the age of 16 to look for more work in the bigger cities of Orlando and then Tampa, playing with blues and country bands, and writing arrangements for songs.

Determined to have his own band, Charles looked north where the big radio hits were made, and moved to Seattle, Washington. It was here that he met Quincy Jones, who was to become a lifelong friend. He soon formed a band and began to play the 1-5AM slot at a local venue. Following this he had his first national hit with “Confession Blues”. After recording more hit records, he was signed by legendary owner of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun.

What Are Ray Charles’ Most Popular Songs?

It was at Atlantic that Ray Charles recorded some of his most notable compositions, including “I Got A Woman”, “What’d I Say” and “Hit The Road Jack”. He continued to write music throughout the 1960s, however by the 1970s his popularity had declined with radio play shifting more towards heavier rock acts and newer styles of music. Nonetheless, Charles was able to live very comfortably off of the master recording rights he had from his enormously popular recordings, and his newer material always gained strong reactions from those who listened to it.

Ray Charles’ later life was filled with duets with successful artists and admirers, and concerts to millions of admiring fans worldwide. His voice has been often described as one of the greatest of all time, and he is frequently placed next to acts such as Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, The Beatles, and others, as one of the most influential musicians and songwriters of all time. Although he passed away at the age of 73 in 2002, his influence will remain in the spirit of popular music forever, and his inspiring story of extreme turmoil and poverty to enormous success serves continually as a spectacular example of human potential.

If you’re into Ray Charles’ style along with some classic blues, jazz, rock and roll, gospel, and country, check out the best blues jam in London! Every Friday and Tuesday at Northern Soul!

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