Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 -- June 10, 2004) was one of the first performers to fuse [=R&B=] and Gospel music to create {{Soul}} back in TheFifties and he exerted a major influence on the development of the RockAndRoll genre.

Losing his sight to an infection at a young age and educated in music at a school for the blind, Ray became a talented musician and multi-instrumentalist who got his start singing and playing piano and organ with {{country|Music}} and {{blues}} bands in the [[TheForties 1940s]]. Although he recorded a few minor hits, his big break came when he was signed to Creator/AtlanticRecords in the early 1950s and recorded songs such as "Mess Around" (written by Atlantic co-founder and president Ahmet Ertegun), "I Got A Woman", "Hallelujah, I Love Her So" and "What'd I Say", which combined raw, passionate gospel energy with boogie-influenced music and secular lyrics. While this music provoked some controversy at the time, these songs are now recognised as some of the first soul songs and established Ray as the inventor of a whole new genre.

Subsequently, he joined a major label (ABC-Paramount) and decided to explore new sounds, including {{Jazz}}, {{Pop}} and especially {{Country}}, which earned him some of his biggest hits, including "Georgia On My Mind", "Hit the Road Jack" and "I Can't Stop Loving You" (a song which is now credited for helping to popularise country outside of its traditional audiences). Although he struggled with drug addiction and sporadic success after the 1960s, interest in his music was renewed thanks to his appearance in ''Film/TheBluesBrothers'' in 1980, reinforced by being the musical spokesperson for a popular TV ad campaign for Diet Pepsi, and he remained popular until his death from cancer in 2004.

Ray's influence on other singers and musicians cannot be understated; Music/FrankSinatra called him "the only true genius" in popular music, Music/BillyJoel was hugely influenced by his piano playing and singing, the members of Music/TheBeatles all expressed their admiration for his achievements, with Music/PaulMcCartney crediting him as his reason for getting into music, and his song "What'd I Say" was allegedly the first song Mick Jagger performed as a member of Music/TheRollingStones.

His early life, rise to fame, dalliances with drug addiction and involvement in the civil rights movement are chronicled in the UsefulNotes/AcademyAward-winning {{Biopic}} ''Film/{{Ray}}'', released only a few months after his death. He was set to attend the premiere had he lived. As it was, he was still able to attend a private screening with the crew.

Albums by Ray Charles that have their own page:
* ''Music/ModernSoundsInCountryAndWesternMusic'' (1962).

!!Associated Tropes:

* BlindBlackGuy: If a black character is blind, expect them to be a parody of Ray (or possibly Music/StevieWonder).
* BlindMusician
* BreakupSong: "Hit the Road, Jack", done with The Raelettes. (Ray didn't write it - that would be Percy Mayfield - but his version is the most well-known.)
* TheCoverChangesTheMeaning: The lyrics to "Georgia on My Mind" were originally written for composer Hoagy Carmichael's sister, despite it being ambiguous enough to refer to the state or a woman. After Ray made it famous as a dedication to the state of Georgia, it became the official state song.
* DanceSensation: Everybody's doing the "Mess Around".
* EruditeStoner: After kicking his heroin habit, Charles coped by smoking weed '''every day'''.
* GenrePopularizer: Either "I Got a Woman" or "What'd I Say" is considered to be this for {{Soul}}, depending on who you ask, but either way, it was Ray.
* GreatestHitsAlbum: He has several conventional greatest hits and best of sets, but several of his early albums were effectively hits collections as a result of the record industry practices in the 1950s. For example, his first "studio" album (released in 1957) incorporated hit songs he'd recorded as far back as 1953.
* {{Improv}}: Ray made up "What'd I Say" ''on the spot'' to fill time at the end of a 1958 performance. His instructions to the Raelettes and the backing musicians were basically "I'm going to fool around; y'all follow me."
* IntercourseWithYou: "What'd I Say".
* LocationSong: "Georgia On My Mind" is a homage to this state and has in fact become its official anthem.
* LiveAlbum: 1959's ''Ray Charles at Newport'' stands alongside Music/JamesBrown's ''Music/LiveAtTheApollo'' as one of the best live recordings of the early [=R&B=]/Soul era.
* NewSoundAlbum: ''Music/ModernSoundsInCountryAndWesternMusic'' was a considerable departure from his previous musical recordings and made country music acceptable in circles where people originally only liked soul and R&B.
* OdeToIntoxication: "Let's Go Get Stoned"
* OneManSong: ''Hit The Road, Jack''.
* PatrioticFervor: Known for his version of "America the Beautiful".
* PlayingTheirOwnTwin: In a 1990s commercial for Diet Pepsi, Ray introduces his twin brother Herb Charles, also played by Ray. In addition, the Rayetts (a trio of backup singers) have a set of twins, the Herbettes.
* ProductPlacement: One well-known commercial he did for Diet Pepsi involved an off-camera practical joker switching his soda with Diet Coke. Of course, Ray can't see the difference, but he can certainly taste it. Pepsi admitted the commercial was taking a risk by potentially being seen as poking fun at a handicap, but it went over very well.
* RiddleForTheAges: The cause of his blindness was never conclusively determined.
* SelfBackingVocalist: That's Ray himself doing falsetto harmonies on "I Believe to My Soul", because he wasn't happy with how the Raelettes were singing the backing vocals.
* SelfDeprecation: He always had a sense of humor about his blindness. Examples include hanging a poster upside down in Film/TheBluesBrothers, having a cameo in Film/SpyHard as a bus driver, and doing a radio ad for some fast food sandwich saying that he felt like going out for one "so you might want to stay off the road."
* SelfTitledAlbum
* SesameStreetCred:
** His performance of the Muppet classic "Its Not Easy Being Green" may well be the single greatest musical moment in ''Series/SesameStreet'' history.
** To a lesser extent, his role as the voice of G-Clef in the ''WesternAnimation/BluesClues'' [[TheMovie movie]] ''Blue's Big Musical.''
* SexDrugsAndRockAndRoll
* StageName: He dropped his last name so as not to be confused with the boxer "Sugar" Ray Robinson.