Ray Charles, 1930-2004
When the great Duke Ellington wanted to verbalize his very highest praise for an artist, he would say that he was “beyond category.” If anyone truly deserves that accolade it would be Ray Charles Robinson, a national treasure and an international icon. His signature sound on vocals is recognized around the world.
No other musical artist has achieved such great artistic and popular success in as many genres: blues, gospel, R & B, jazz, country & western, rock & roll, and pop. Few, if any, can match his huge array of talents and skills: vocalist, keyboard player, band leader, talent scout, composer, and record producer.
Listen to his recordings on the Atlantic label from the 50’s and 60’s. “Genius & Soul = Jazz” on Impulse showcases his skills on vocals, electric piano, and jazz orchestration. He is recognized by his highly accurate nickname: “The Genius”.
Of this photograph, Roger Kallins wrote, “This is a young Ray Charles, early in his big band years. Taken while on assignment for a jazz publication (either Downbeat or Metronome magazine) at a concert in Miami, Florida, between 1958 and 1960. The newly formed Raelettes were also featured at this show.”
Ray Charles had ties to North Central Florida: he attended the School for the Deaf in St. Augustine, and his first professional gig was in Orlando. He was an important financial contributor to Martin Luther King, Jr., during the civil rights movement.
Photograph by Roger Kallins. Courtesy of Patricia Darlington.