Appreciating all that makes America special

Singer: Ray Charles

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by MTO-Graff

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by MTO-Graff

Ray Charles was a country singer. Now, of course, he wasn’t just a country singer. But the mere fact that he was able to perform such amazing songs as “Born to Lose” and “You Don’t Know Me” show what a versatile, genre-busting singer he was.

Ray was born with sight, but began losing it at age five. By the time he was seven years old, he was blind. He attended a school for the deaf and blind, and at night he listened to all the music he could find on the radio – big band, gospel, blues, even the Grand Ole Opry.

Those influences clearly shaped his musical persona, though at first he patterned himself after another icon of the time, Nat King Cole. He finally realized he had to let Ray be Ray, and let loose in the groundbreaking 1954 recording “I Got a Woman.” It reached number one on the R&B chart.

In 1962 he released the album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. It became one of the best-selling albums of its day by a black artist and one of the best-selling country albums. In addition to the two songs mentioned above, it also included the classic “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” The album has the distinction of having been included among the all-time great albums by groups as disparate as Rolling Stone magazine and Country Music Television. If all this doesn’t convince you of the greatness of Ray Charles, I just have one thing to say.

Hit the road, Jack.

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