American singer-songwriter-pianist-saxophonist Ray Charles Robinson Sr. was born on September 23, 1930, and died on June 10, 2004. His contemporaries commonly referred to him as “The Genius,” He is now remembered as one of the most memorable and influential singers ever. He favored the name “Brother Ray” among his friends and fellow artists. While still a youngster, Charles lost his vision, possibly from glaucoma. Do you want to know how did Ray Charles go blind? If yes, then start reading this post:
In the 1950s, Charles recorded for Atlantic Records and helped establish soul music by fusing blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, and gospel elements. Through his crossover success on ABC Records, especially with his two Modern Sounds albums, he helped to bring together traditionally separate genres of music in the 1960s. Charles was one of the first black performers signed to a major label which was given creative freedom while he was with ABC.
Ray Charles (1930-2004), a legendary musician known for his soulful sound, was hailed as a musical genius for the way he fused different musical genres to create his own. For this, he was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Blindness didn’t stop him from accomplishing all of this.
How Did Ray Charles Go Blind?
Young Ray Charles (born Ray Charles Robinson) began losing his sight shortly after witnessing his brother’s drowning when he was five. However, his eventual blindness resulted from medical issues rather than trauma. While he was only seven years old, his right eye was surgically removed owing to excruciating agony, rendering him entirely blind. Medical professionals feel glaucoma was to blame, but no one will know for sure because of Charles’ age, location, and socioeconomic status.
Despite his blindness, Ray Charles mastered several skills, including riding a bike, playing chess, using stairs, and even flying a plane. Charles relied on his other senses, becoming adept at using sound to determine distance and memorizing details. He needed assistance from his assistant while on tour, but he refused to employ a guide dog or a cane.
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He said Charles’s mother was the driving force behind his uncompromising autonomy. The Smithsonian reports that Charles’ mother told him, “You’re blind, you ain’t dumb; you lost your sight, not your brains.” Since many blind blues musicians used guitar, he focused on piano and keyboards instead. He claimed that he felt helpless and unable to see without his guitar, cane, and dog.
Ray Charles Music Career
Although he was born in Georgia, Ray Charles spent much of his childhood in Florida, showing an early aptitude for and dedication to music. At age 5, he gave his first performance at a neighborhood restaurant. Following his loss of sight, he enrolled at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, where he studied music theory, composition, and the use of Braille. He started performing on the Chitlin’ Circuit when he was only 15 years old.
His debut release was a record in 1949 titled “Confession Blues,” which he performed with the Maxin Trio. Charles’s song “I Got a Woman” peaked at No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1954. Both “Georgia on My Mind” (1960) and “Hit the Road, Jack” (1961) were Grammy Award winners for him.
More victories awaited him, and he would eventually accumulate a large number. He proved his adaptability and popularity across genres by having “Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music” debut at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. “Genius Loves Company” was Ray Charles’ final album, released a few months after his passing. The late Ray Charles was honored with eight Grammys in 2005.
Throughout his career, he has been recognized by the Grammys in numerous genres, including rhythm and blues, gospel, pop, country, and jazz.
Ray Charles Awards and Honors
Placed a star in Charles’ honor at 6777 Hollywood Boulevard on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When Ray Charles was accepted into the American Academy of Achievement in 1975, he received both the Golden Plate Award and the Academy of Achievement gold medal.
Charles was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1979, along with some of the other first-generation musicians from the state. Georgia adopted his rendition of “Georgia on My Mind” as its official state song.
He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1981 and was a charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its first year of operation (1986). In 1986, he was again honored with Kennedy Center accolades.
From a total of 37 nominations, Charles took home 17 Grammys. The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award was named for him in 1987.
During the 1991 UCLA Spring Sing, he was honored with the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement and inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. The University of South Florida awarded him an honorary doctorate in fine arts in 1990.
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