Ray Charles Robinson is born in Albany, Georgia.
Ray Charles makes his chart debut with a solid hit, “Confessin’ Blues,” which appeared on the Downbeat (later Swingtime) label.
Atlantic Records buys Ray Charles’ contract from Swingtime, where Charles had been recording in the mellower, bluesy style of Nat King Cole and Charles Brown.
Ray Charles does his first session for Atlantic, cutting four songs. Over the next seven years, he will record such classics as “Mess Around,” “I Got a Woman,” “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” and “What’d I Say.”
Ray Charles records “I Got a Woman,” a seminal moment in the adaptation of sacred gospel to secular rhythm & blues, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Ray Charles hits #2 on the R&B charts with the Atlantic single “I Got A Woman”, widely considered the first song to be labeled “soul”—a blending of R&B and gospel.
Ray Charles hits #1 on the R&B chart with the Atlantic single “Drown in My Own Tears.”
“Swannee River Rock” becomes Ray Charles’ first single to cross over onto the pop charts.
“What’d I Say,” a song that evolved in concert as a call-and-response between Ray Charles and his female backup singers, the Raeletts, is recorded in New York City. It becomes Charles’ biggest hit to date, reaching #1 on the R&B and #6 on the pop charts.
Ray Charles leaves Atlantic Records for ABC-Paramount, which offers him extremely favorable contract terms, including the eventual ownership of his master recordings. Atlantic releases “I’m Movin’ On,” Charles’ cover of Hank Snow’s country classic, a month later.
“Georgia On My Mind,” a cover of Hoagy Carmichael’s 1930 standard, becomes the first of three #1 pop hits for Ray Charles.
Ray Charles has his first Top Ten album with ‘The Genius Hits the Road,’ his debut on the ABC label after leaving Atlantic Records.
Ray Charles hits #28 with “Ruby”.
Ray Charles hits #8 with “One Mint Julep”.
Ray Charles hits #1 with “Hit the Road Jack”.
Ray Charles hits #9 with “Unchain My Heart”.
The landmark album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which marks Ray Charles’ first full-length foray into the county genre, is issued. It tops the album chart for three and a half months and inspires a second volume later the same year.
Ray Charles hits #1 with “I Can’t Stop Loving You”.
Ray Charles hits #2 with “You Don’t Know Me”.
Ray Charles hits #1 on the R&B chart and #7 on the pop chart with “You Are My Sunshine”.
Ray Charles hits #8 with “Take These Chains From My Heart”.
Ray Charles hits #4 with “Busted”.
Ray Charles hits #6 with “Crying Time”.
After being convicted of possessing heroin and marijuana, Ray Charles is given a five-year suspended sentence. A drug user since the age of 16, he thereupon kicks his heroin addiction at a California sanitarium.
Ray Charles’ hit single “Crying Time” wins two Grammys
Ray Charles hits #15 with “Here We Go Again”.
Ray Charles Orchestra hits #36 with “Booty Butt”
A 25th Anniversary in Show Business Salute to Ray Charles, a cooperative venture between Atlantic and ABC comprising material from both labels, is released.
Ray Charles’ version of “Georgia On My Mind” is declared “the official song of the State of Georgia.”
The film The Blues Brothers, which features Ray Charles in the role of a streetwise storeowner, opens across America.
Ray Charles is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the first induction dinner, held in New York City. Quincy Jones is his presenter.
Ray Charles receives a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 30th annual Grammy Awards. It is noted that “he is the father of soul...[having] personified the true essence of soul music in all his...performances of basic blues, pop ballads, jazz tunes and even country music.”
A Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded to Ray Charles by the Songwriters Hall of Fame, with Billy Joel as his presenter.
Ray Charles wins the 12th Grammy of his career, this one for Best Male R&B Performance ("A Song for You").
Ray Charles is given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s annual Pioneer Awards.
Ray Charles passes away.