Ray Charles

Ray Charles
Los Angeles Times


Ray Charles
Music: North side of the 6700 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Born Ray Charles Robinson on Sept. 23, 1930 in Atlanta, Ga.
Died June 10, 2004 of complications of liver disease in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Ray Charles was a musical innovator whose bold, effortless fusions left an indelible mark on the rock, soul and country music of the last half-century.

Charles' recordings from the early 1950s, such as "I Got a Woman," combined gospel and rhythm and blues to form one of the cornerstones of rock 'n' roll and laid the foundation for soul music. His landmark 1962 album, "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music," took the twang out of country music, bringing a sophistication and ambition to the genre that opened the door to its modernization.

His relatively modest showing on the pop charts — just 12 singles in the Top 10 — fails to reflect his profound influence and stature in the music world. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, part of the institution's inaugural 10-member class that also included Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, James Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Quincy Jones served as a composer or arranger on "The Great Ray Charles" and "The Genius of Ray Charles," two seminal Atlantic albums from the late 1950s that established Charles' jazz credentials. Charles sang a duet with Chaka Khan on "I'll Be Good to You," a track from Jones' 1989 pop album, "Back on the Block."

"I Got a Woman" hit No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1955 and was followed in the top spot by "A Fool for You" and "Drown in My Own Tears." But it was his 1959 recording of "What'd I Say" that marked his arrival at the forefront of popular music. With its urgent, Latin-flavored rhythm and sexy call-and-response bridge, it became his first million-seller and his introduction to the Top 10 on the pop charts.

"Modern Sounds" topped the album chart for 14 weeks and the single "I Can't Stop Loving You" was the biggest-selling single of 1962. Other hits from the early '60s included "Georgia on My Mind," "Hit the Road Jack" and "Busted."

In April 2004 Charles began working on an album of duets with Willie Nelson, B.B. King, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Norah Jones and others.

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