Some of the first songs that really stand out in my memories are from Ray Charles. If I had any musical talent or understanding of how to read music, I’d definitely be a musicians of sorts and would name Ray as a major influence. I’m certainly not the only one, as many, super successful musicians consider him one of their influences too.
“This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley”.
– Billy Joel
Ray Charles possessed one of the most recognizable voices in American music. In the words of Henry Pleasants:
Sinatra, and Bing Crosby before him, had been masters of words. Ray Charles is a master of sounds. His records disclose an extraordinary assortment of slurs, glides, turns, shrieks, wails, breaks, shouts, screams and hollers, all wonderfully controlled, disciplined by inspired musicianship, and harnessed to ingenious subtleties of harmony, dynamics and rhythm… It is either the singing of a man whose vocabulary is inadequate to express what is in his heart and mind or of one whose feelings are too intense for satisfactory verbal or conventionally melodic articulation. He can’t tell it to you. He can’t even sing it to you. He has to cry out to you, or shout to you, in tones eloquent of despair — or exaltation. The voice alone, with little assistance from the text or the notated music, conveys the message.
His style and success in the genres of rhythm and blues and jazz had an influence on a number of highly successful artists, including Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, and Billy Joel. According to Joe Levy, a music editor for Rolling Stone, “The hit records he made for Atlantic in the mid-50’s mapped out everything that would happen to rock ‘n’ roll and soul music in the years that followed”.
On December 7, 2007, the Ray Charles Plaza was opened in his hometown of Albany, Georgia. The plaza features a revolving, lighted bronze sculpture of Charles seated at a piano and the plaza’s dedication was attended by his daughter, Sheila Raye Charles.
On August 4, 2013, in an interview with the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters stated: “I was about 15. In the middle of the night with friends, we were listening to jazz. It was “Georgia on My Mind”, Ray Charles’s version. Then I thought ‘One day, if I make some people feel only one twentieth of what I am feeling now, it will be quite enough for me.'”.
When My Dreamboat Comes Home