Charles, Ray [Robinson, Ray Charles ]
- Dave Marsh
[Robinson, Ray Charles ]
(b Albany, GA, Sept 23, 1930; d Beverly Hills, CA, June 10, 2004). American rhythm-and-blues and soul singer, pianist, and songwriter. Charles grew up in Greenville, Florida, in a poor African American family, and at the age of five he contracted glaucoma; it went untreated and within a year he was blind. At the same age he also began playing the piano. Two years later he went to the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind, where he studied composition and learned to write music scores in braille. In 1945 Charles was orphaned and left school to form a combo, which toured northern and central Florida. He then moved to Seattle, where he played in jazz trios, developing a piano and vocal style heavily influenced by Charles Brown and Nat “King” Cole. It was also at about this time that he changed his name to Ray Charles, in order to avoid confusion with the prizefighter Sugar Ray Robinson. His first rhythm-and-blues hits were “Baby let me hold your hand” (Swing Time, ...