06/17 - Ray Charles

06/17 - Ray Charles

The man with the black glasses

"For me the music is as important as the blood circulation. Music is my existence. "

Blind Lemmon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell, Stevie Wonder ... the list of famous blind musicians is long. They have always been regarded as extraordinarily inspired artists and at the same time they are blurred by the nimbus of the "blind seers". Their missing light appears to be compensated by an inward-looking vision. This deep view into the human soul is reflected in her music, stirs us to tears, or vehemently shakes the foundations of our world view. Already the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry stated: "One only sees with the heart well. The essence is invisible to the eyes. " Ray Charles was a true master of this" heart "vision. Pardoned musician, pioneer of soul, drug addict, husband, lover and father of a dozen children. His trademark was the black sunglasses, his magic the voice. Let's try not to see this man with his eyes or to measure at his innumerable prices. Let's try to see him with the heart as he would have seen us.

Childhood and blindness

Ray Charles was born on 23 September 1930 as Raymond Charles Robinson in Albany, Georgia. Ray's father is a deaf and leaves the family shortly after the birth of the second child. From then on, Aretha Charles is the mother-in-law of Ray and his little brother George. The family lives in poor conditions, and Aretha keeps herself and her sons above the water with occasional jobs. When Ray is five years old, he has to watch helplessly as his little brother drowns in a laundry drunk. But a misfortune rarely comes alone: ​​Ray falls ill with a glaucoma and begins to lose his eyesight, until he finally disappears at the age of seven. His mother still tries to educate him on his own. "Never let yourself be crippled!" , She always sharpens the boy, encourages him to go to the city alone and even use his bike.

The blind school

Due to his disability, Ray has a claim to care in a state blind school. However, the next facility is over 300 kilometers away and Ray is already confronted with the hard experiences of farewell and separation as first graders. In addition, there is the everyday wave of discrimination, which is countering him at school. Even 65 years after the end of slavery there is still strict racial separation in this southeastern part of the USA. This social madness manifests itself in the bizarre fact that white and colored children are taught separately, although they can not see each other. Only the music lessons is a ray of hope in Ray's otherwise dreary childhood: he learns to play the piano and also tries out his saxophone and clarinet.

Early self-employment

When Ray is 14 years old, his mother dies. He left the school and came to Jacksonville, Florida with family friends. In spite of his young years, Ray wants financially on his own feet and is looking for ways to support his livelihood. No easy endeavor for a black, blind teenager at this time, but Ray has something that most others do not have: talent. His pianoforte play has been well developed and he has already begun writing his own pieces at the blind school. He joins the musicians' union and begins to take part in jam sessions in the relevant music kits of Jacksonville. During this time he musically orientated on his models Nat "King" Cole and Charles Brown. Ray begins to lead the typically unsteady life of a musician in the South of the USA for this time. Appearances and short-term engagements lead him first from Jacksonville to Tampas and finally to Orlando, where he founds his first own trio. With the "Maxin Trio" Ray records his first record and plays at numerous live gigs. Soon the "man with the black glasses" is known as a hard negotiating partner when it comes to the height of the salary. At the end of each performance he lets his money be scared out of fear in one dollar notes.

First paternity and drugs

Shortly after Ray and his two fellow musicians decided to switch to the music Mecca Los Angeles, the Maxin Trio dissolves for unknown reasons. At the same time, one of his numerous ex-lovers with a common child. Ray's just beginning career is in shards. He begins to drink, smokes marijuana and ends up, like so many of his music colleagues of this time, in the heroin trap. He earns a commitment as a guest star in the blues band of Lowell Fulson, where he has been trapped for two consecutive years in an ever-recurring devil's circle of performances and the next shot. In his despair, he embarks on a marriage with Eileen Williams, who, however, is already completely disillusioned after a few months and submits the divorce. Just a move to drug-addicted New York makes him come to his senses.

Solo career

In New York Ray separates from Lowell Fulson's blues band and starts playing as a solo artist again. He ponders his roots, writes songs about the corrugated iron huts of his childhood and reduces his drug consumption to one shot of heroin a day. Quickly it is rumored that a black, blind musician mixes the music clubs of the city with a completely new mixture of Rhythm & Blues, Swing and Gospel. Finally, a music producer from Atlantic Records is also attentive to the young blacks with the old voice. Ray gets his first record deal with a major label and can create his own combo.

The one-shot-hit It Should Have Been Me is released as a single and quickly gets into the R & B charts on 5th place. From here on, Ray's music is steeply uphill. In private, however, the next disaster awaits him in love. Although he is on tour for most of the year and has many affairs, he marries Della Beatrice, with whom he gets three children, but does not have much in common. Until 1959, he remains faithful to Atlantic Records, can place many hits in the charts and has commercial success. The money allows him a life of luxury and constantly changing love affairs, from which he regularly flees in the private aircraft. Infidel children begin to pave their way. Just as faithfully as his record label, he remains heroin. Until he was twice arrested for drug possession, in the beginning and middle of the 1960s, and had to decide whether he was going to be cured or five years in prison. Ray chooses the withdrawal.


After a year of abstinence from heroin and live performances, Ray is sober in the truest sense of the word. He begins to devote himself to his career and can quickly build on the old successes. At this point, we skip three decades. Ray Charles is one of the greatest songwriters of all time, in which he receives 13 Grammy Awards and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame Jazz Hall of Fame, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. This really says all about his musical successes.

The end of a legend

In 2002, Ray Charles gathered twelve of his children in a Florida hotel, told them about his cancer, and planned to divide the vast legacy, estimated at $ 75 million. Two years later Ray Charles dies on June 10, 2004 of liver cancer in Beverly Hills. At his funeral at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, BB King, Glen Campbell, Stevie Wonder and Wynton Marsalis give him a concert in honor.

"Blind, why not?" I am still happy, however, because the things I imagine them are in reality probably less beautiful than in my imagination. For this reason alone I will not see them. "

Ray Charles

Copyright: © Jason Hickey - Flickr.com

Products link

Categories : Men of the month

Published : 06/1/2017 06:33:53