Born & Raised:
Full name: Ray Charles Robinson.
Born: Sept. 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia.
Died: June 10, 2004 in Beverly Hills, California.
Ray Charles Robinson was born in Albany, Georgia, the son of Aretha and Bailey Robinson. When Ray was still an infant, the family moved to Greenville, Florida. Ray started to lose his sight due to glaucoma when he was 5 years old; by the time he reached 7, he was totally blind. In 1937, he was sent to a school for the blind in the city of St. Augustine, which is where he discovered and began to cultivate his love and talent for playing music. Three years after entering the school, Ray's father died. His mother died five years after that, when Ray was 15.
After his parents' deaths, Ray left school for good and was taken in and raised by a couple who had been friends with his mother. He began playing music professionally for local piano bands, and eventually moved to Seattle in 1947 to expand his career. In 1952, he signed a deal with Swing Time Records and took the stage name of Ray Charles to avoid being confused with "Sugar" Ray Robinson, who was a champion boxer at the time. In 1953, the Swing Time label folded and Ray migrated to Atlantic Records. He had his first big hit, "Mess Around," later in 1953, followed by "I Got a Woman" the next year.
During the 1950s and '60s, Ray had a string of R&B hits, including "The Night Time (Is the Right Time)," "Hit the Road, Jack," and "Georgia On My Mind." However, he also struggled with addiction to heroin; after getting busted in 1961, he told police he'd been a user since he was 16. He wound up being arrested for possession multiple times, and in 1965 was admitted to a rehab clinic in Los Angeles. He managed to clean up his act and continue releasing occasional hits during the '70s and '80s. Four months after he died of lung cancer, the biographical film about his life, Ray, starring Jamie Foxx, was released.
The movie Ray, which focused on a 30-year period in Ray's life, was a critical and commercial success upon its release in October 2004. Jamie Foxx won an Academy Award for his uncanny performance as Ray Charles. The film also won an Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing and Grammy Awards for Best Soundtrack and Best Musical Score.
Ray Charles' first wife was Eileen Williams, whom he married in July 1951 at the age of 21. They divorced the following year.
He was also married to Della Howard Robinson from April 1955 until 1977, and they had three children together, all male.
Other than his offspring with Della Robinson, Ray sired nine other children with various women between 1950 and 1987. Six were female and three male.
2004: Inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame.
1993: Awarded the U.S. National Medal of the Arts.
1987: Received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
1986: Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.