On this day in 1930, singer and musician Ray Charles was born in Albany, Georgia.
As a child, he and his family moved to Greenville, Florida, where he had the traumatic experience of witnessing his younger brother drown. Soon after, he began to gradually lose his sight. By the age of 7, he was completely blind.
He attended the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind where he learned to read music in Braille. When he was 15, his mother passed away. It was around this time when he began to get serious about his music career.
In 1949, he released “Confession Blues,” his first single. The song did incredibly well on the R&B charts and Charles soon landed a deal with Atlantic Records. One year later, the iconic single “I Got a Woman” reached number one on the charts.
His fans began referring to him as “The Genius” because of his ability to blend multiple styles of music. His music even crossed over to the pop genre, where it also did extremely well on the charts.
In 1960, Charles received his first Grammy Award for “Georgia on my Mind.” Soon after, he won another Grammy for his single “Hit the Road, Jack.” He then appeared in the comedy The Blues Brothers with John Belushi and Don Aykroyd. A few years later, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In the early 1990’s, he returned to the spotlight, recording commercials for Pepsi-Cola. In 2003, he had to cancel his tour for the first time in 53 years to undergo hip replacement surgery. Although the operation was successful, he learned that he was suffering from liver disease.
He passed away at his home in Beverly Hills, California on June 10, 2004.