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Ray Charles


1930

Ray Charles Robinson is born in Albany, Georgia.

1949

Ray Charles makes his chart debut with a solid hit, “Confessin’ Blues,” which appeared on the Downbeat (later Swingtime) label.

1952

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.

1952

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.”

1954

Ray Charles records “I Got a Woman,” a seminal moment in the adaptation of sacred gospel to secular rhythm & blues, in Atlanta, Georgia.

1955

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.

1956

Ray Charles hits #1 on the R&B chart with the Atlantic single “Drown in My Own Tears.”

1957

“Swannee River Rock” becomes Ray Charles’ first single to cross over onto the pop charts.

1959

“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.

1959

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.

1960

“Georgia On My Mind,” a cover of Hoagy Carmichael’s 1930 standard, becomes the first of three #1 pop hits for Ray Charles.

1960

Ray Charles has his first Top Ten album with ‘The Genius Hits the Road,’ his debut on the ABC label after leaving Atlantic Records.

1960

Ray Charles hits #28 with “Ruby”.

1961

Ray Charles hits #8 with “One Mint Julep”.

1961

Ray Charles hits #1 with “Hit the Road Jack”.

1962

Ray Charles hits #9 with “Unchain My Heart”.

1962

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.

1962

Ray Charles hits #1 with “I Can’t Stop Loving You”.

1962

Ray Charles hits #2 with “You Don’t Know Me”.

1962

Ray Charles hits #1 on the R&B chart and #7 on the pop chart with “You Are My Sunshine”.

1963

Ray Charles hits #8 with “Take These Chains From My Heart”.

1963

Ray Charles hits #4 with “Busted”.

1966

Ray Charles hits #6 with “Crying Time”.

1966

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.

1967

Ray Charles’ hit single “Crying Time” wins two Grammys

1967

Ray Charles hits #15 with “Here We Go Again”.

1971

Ray Charles Orchestra hits #36 with “Booty Butt”

1971

A 25th Anniversary in Show Business Salute to Ray Charles, a cooperative venture between Atlantic and ABC comprising material from both labels, is released.

1979

Ray Charles’ version of “Georgia On My Mind” is declared “the official song of the State of Georgia.”

1980

The film The Blues Brothers, which features Ray Charles in the role of a streetwise storeowner, opens across America.

1986

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.

1988

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.”

1993

A Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded to Ray Charles by the Songwriters Hall of Fame, with Billy Joel as his presenter.

1994

Ray Charles wins the 12th Grammy of his career, this one for Best Male R&B Performance ("A Song for You").

1995

Ray Charles is given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s annual Pioneer Awards.

2004

Ray Charles passes away.

Ray Charles