Written by Brooke Filsinger
Known as “The Genius” the world over, he was simply “Brother Ray” to friends and fellow musicians.
He was a musical pioneer in every sense.
It would be impossible to classify him in a single genre. He was on the cutting edge of the development of soul music in the 1950s and integral to the integration of country with other styles during the 1960s. In an effort to have his listener ‘feel’ his message, he filled his recordings with slurs, glides, shrieks, wails, breaks, shouts, hollers and more.
In addition to being one of the first African-American musicians to be granted artistic control which allowed him the freedom to crossover into mainstream pop, he was also offered a large annual advance, higher than usual royalties, and the almost unheard of ownership of his masters.
But despite his ingenuity, he wasn’t immune to the changing times – he experienced ebbs and flows as popular tastes changed, although he never stopped re-inventing what his music could be.
Frank Sinatra believed that he was “The only true genius in show business”.
We knew him simply as Ray Charles . . . but there was nothing simple about Ray Charles or his music.