Ray Charles (Ray Charles Robinson real name, 1930 - 2004) was an African-American pianist, singer and composer. Together with Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke, they laid the foundations of soul music, combining gospel, rhythm & blues and jazz.
He was born on September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia, USA. His parents were poor who in search of a better fortune moved to Greenville, Florida. There his father left home, his younger brother drowned in the bath and Ray developed glaucoma at the age of five, which led him to blindness within two years.
He attended a school for children with special needs where he focused on musical studies, showing talent on the piano. He joined his neighborhood church choir and started playing the piano in local cafes. At the age of 15, his mother died of cancer and he was forced to leave school and try to survive with music. (his father had already died).
He participated as a pianist in various bands and started composing, in 1951; his first big hit was "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand". Heenjoyed since then a huge success, with songs such as: "Things I Used to Do" (1953), "I've Got a Woman" (1954), "A Fool for You" (1955), "Drown in My Own Tears" (1956) "What'd I Say" (1959), 'Hit the Road Jack' (1961), 'I Can't Stop Loving You' (1962), 'Busted' (1963) 'Georgia On My Mind' (1960),
From 1955 he frequently toured the US and abroad with his big band and appeared on television programs and in films such as The Blues Brothers (1980). In the mid-60s, he was arrested for possession of heroin and marijuana; it was then revealed that he had been using drugs since his teenage years. He was honored with 13 Grammy Awards, married twice and fathered 13 children, most of them with different lovers. He died on June 10, 2004 of liver failure.