Ray Charles Robinson is considered to be one of the greatest musicians of all times. His creative work exerted a great influence on the music industry. Thus, he became a pioneer of soul music by mixing such styles as gospel, blues and rhythm and blues. The significance of his creative work in the world of music is obvious. He even became the first African-American musician to control a record company. Moreover, he was called “the only true genius in show business” by Frank Sinatra, even though Ray Charles never thought that of himself. In addition, he was recognized to be among the ten greatest artists of all time according to the Rolling Stone rank. Thus, in order to understand the influence of Ray Charles and his music, the following points will be examined in this paper:
Therefore, the significance of Ray Charles’ creative work will be discussed. Moreover, one of his most famous and appreciated songs, entitled Georgia on My Mind, will be mentioned in the paper. It certainly was an important part of Charles’ creative work, because it made him even more famous than he was before and moreover, it was adopted as the state song of the state of Georgia after his performance with it there.
Brief Biography of Ray Charles
Ray Charles was born on September 23, 1930 into a poor family of a sharecropper and a mechanic. His mother was a devout Christian, so the family attended the Church. From his early years, Ray displayed the interest not only for the music, namely boogie woogie, gospel and piano music, but also for mechanical things. However, when the boy was only five years old, he faced a serious challenge. Suffering from glaucoma, the boy started to lose his sight and became blind by the age of seven. However, he did not abandon his passion for music and entered a specialized school for blind children, where he continued developing his musical talent. Ray was taught to play classical music there, being more interested in jazz and blues. Displaying his innate talent, he even managed to become a premier musician at the school.
When Ray was 15, his mother died and he moved to another city, where he played piano for several bands and even earned his living by doing that. Soon, he started having his well-known habit to wear sun glasses all the time. Playing piano for different bands, Charles always wanted to have his own one. Therefore, he decided to move again soon and left for Seattle in 1947. There he started a band and even made his first record and his first hit entitled Confession Blues. In the following years, he recorded several more hits and singed a contract with Atlantic Records in 1953. It was there where Charles truly found his voice.
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In the following years, Ray Charles began creating more and more hits, which became extremely popular. Thus, his first number-one rhythm and blues hit was the song entitled I Got a Woman. It was recorded in 1955 and made him a prominent singer for the entire country. This song became a mixture of various music elements and styles, which impacted the emergence of the soul genre. Beginning with this record, Charles discovered his singing talent and started displaying his emotional intensity in an exceptional way. His hoots, hollers and other voicings became his trademark and highlighted his personality and talent among other singers.
Charles’ achievements and popularity soon made people call him “The Genius”. However, the singer did not pacify with the general popularity and kept creating hits which surprised the publicity more and more. Thus, his song entitled What I’d Say became a “million selling monster hit”. This song combined Latin-esque blues riffs with gospel vocals and playful lyrics. Moreover, it became one of Charles’ most successful creations. Another prominent song of his is certainly Hit the Road Jack, which became popular all over the world and brought Charles a Grammy in 1961.
However, despite his success, Charles also had serious problems. Thus, his heroine addiction made him go to rehab in the 1960s in order to avoid jail. The subsequent rise of harder forms of rock led to the decline of his commercial success. Even though Charles kept composing music, recording new songs and appearing in TV shows and films, his popularity saw a decline in comparison to the one he had in the 1950s and 1960s. However, he kept performing with his most popular songs, such as Georgia on My Mind, at various ceremonies until he died on June 10, 2004 due to a liver disease.
Ray Charles’ Georgia on My Mind
The song entitled Georgia on My Mind was originally written by Stuart Gorrell and Hoagy Carmichael 30 years before Charles covered it. It was covered by many artists and singers as well, but it was not until 1960, that this song became extremely popular in the United States, when Ray Charles recorded it on his album entitled The Genius Hits the Road. The significance of this song for the singer’s career and life, as well as for other people, will be discussed further.
Since Ray Charles was born in Albany, Georgia, the song Georgia on My Mind meant a lot to him. In 1960, he recorded it on his album The Genius Hits the Road, which was a concept album having a single line telling about various parts of the United States. There are songs devoted not only to Georgia on it, but also the ones written for New York, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, California, and so on. The album was released in September 1960 on the ABC-Paramount Label with Sid Feller as a producer. It became a successful album, which reached the ninth position of the album charts.
Being recorded on The Genius Hits the Road, Georgia on My Mind also gained success as a separate song. It quickly reached the first position of the United States Billboard chart in 1960. However, it gained its peak of success in 1979, when Ray Charles performed with it in front of the Georgia General Assembly. The publicity liked his way of singing it so much that soon after the perfeormance, Charles’ version of this song was made an official state song of Georgia State.
The song Georgia on My Mind is a very beautiful creative work, and the way Ray Charles performed it does not let anyone doubt the fact that his version deserved to become a state song. He sang it passionately and emotionally, which always was a characteristic feature of his way of performing. Moreover, originating from Georgia himself, Charles could feel the genuine patriotism while singing the song, which added sincerity to his performance and made audience believe him.
Even though Georgia on My Mind was not written by Charles himself, it was him who made it so famous. He managed to bring the lyrics of this song to the hearts of people, due to which it became a hit and was adopted as a state song exactly in his version. Even though in reality this song could have been written for a woman named Georgia, not for the state, Ray Charles managed to make it a patriotic song.
Influences of Ray Charles
Ray Charles was interested in music from his early age. Mostly, he was influenced by such genres as rhythm and blues, blues, jazz, and country and by such artists and singers as Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Charles Brown, as well as classical composers like Chopin and Sibelius. Being a teenager, Ray listened to the emotional blues and soulful gospel songs, as well as to the raw melodies of Grand Ole Opry. By mixing all these styles and creating his own one, he became responsible for the development of soul music which influenced many contemporary artists and singers.
Literally, Charles changed the face of contemporary music by bringing his unique style to the public. He is believed to be one of the major influences on modern popular music. His singing was passionate and became a role model for many musicians. He had one of the most recognizable voices among the musicians from the United States. It is hard to imagine the rhythm and blues sound of such singers as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Joe Cocker, Stevie Wonder, and Otis Redding without the influence of Ray Charles. In addition, his songs were covered many times by numerous musicians.
Overall, this incredible singer won twelve Grammies, three Emmy nominations, as well as numerous awards in the Rock, Jazz and Rhythm and Blues halls of fame and the National Medal of Art. The legacy he left for the subsequent representatives of his genre is so impressive, that it cannot be overestimated. Certainly, Ray Charles had a rather hard destiny due to his early loss of sight and the early death of both parents. However, he did not collapse because of these challenges and managed to become a legend and a role model.
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