Ray Charles, the legendary musician, singer, and entertainer, has died at the age of 73. Born in poverty in Albany, Georgia, blind by the age of 6, and an orphan by the time he was a teenager, Charles overcame both physical and social hardships in order to become one of the most popular and respected entertainers of his era. Certainly one of Georgia's most beloved "sons," he was considered by many to be the "Father of Soul", for combining rhythm and blues with gospel to create, a new, distinct genre of music.
For most Georgians, Charles will be remembered for his gorgeous version of "Georgia on My Mind" which became the official state song in 1979. However, Charles dabbled in everything from country to big band to gospel music. He won 12 Grammy awards during his lifetime, and was inducted into 9 different hall of fames, located all over the world
In his later years, he provided his high profile celebrity status to numerous commercial campaigns, including Pepsi, and the Georgia Lottery. Charles also never retired, continuing to perform concerts all over the world, to enthusiastic fans of all ages, colors, and creeds.
Charles smiling, soothing, and friendly countenance was a well-known trademark of his, but there was a dark side to the legendary musician, though one that he was fortunately able to overcome. Charles was a heroin addict for a decade, before quitting cold turkey in the mid-1960's after an arrest at a U.S. airport. Unlike many musicians who succumb to drugs, Charles triumphed, and even went on to pen a couple of humorous songs about the experience.
While the younger generation may only remember Ray Charles from his amusing television commercials, Charles serious contrbution to American music in a variety of genres should not be overlooked. His chipper and charismatic persona, and his feel-good music will be missed by fans all over the world.
Written by Joy Johnston