The Pioneer of Soul Music: Ray Charles

Ray Charles, also known as “a blind genius”, is one of the greatest artists in history. He was the first artist to integrate R&B, gospel, blues, rock, and country to what is known as soul music in the 1950’s and 60’s. This allowed him to create hits like “Hit the Road Jack”, “Unchain My Heart”, and “I Got A Woman”.

Story of His Youth

Ray Charles Robinson was born in Albany, Georgia on September 23, 1930. When he was an infant, Ray and his family moved to Greenville, Florida. Throughout the early stage of adolescence, Charles began to lose his eyesight and was blind by the age of 7. His mother sent him to attend the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, FL where he was taught how to read, write, and arrange music in Braille. His love for music advanced thoroughly, for he began playing many different instruments such as the piano, clarinet, organ trumpet, etc.​

Living His Dream Life Passion

At the age of 15, Charles toured in the South on the “Chitlin’ Circuit”. When Charles decided to move to Seattle at 16, he met a lifelong friend in the music industry by the name of Quincy Jones. In the 1940’s Charles also performed with the McSon Trio. Ray’s distinct playing sound developed from influential artists such as Nat King Cole and Charles Brown. In 1949, his first single “Confession Blues” did well on the R&B charts. He continued to work very hard on his music and was soon signed to Atlantic Records by 1953 with whom he celebrated his first R&B hit single “Mess Around”. Ray’s advance in his musical style was recognized when he reached number 1 on the R&B Charts with his classic, “I Got A Woman”. In the late 1950’s, Charles began cutting records alongside the Modern Jazz Quartet. This all led to his well earned title of “The Genius” and “Father of Soul” due to his blended musical diversity. He even reached number 1 on the R&B chart and number 6 on the pop chart for his song “ What’d I Say”. In 1960, Ray was awarded with two Grammys for his hits “Georgia On My Mind” and “Hit The Road Jack”. Throughout his career, he maintained an authoritative position in the creative process of his music. As Ray’s music continued to evolve in the sixties he dismantled dividing lines between music genres with his album “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music”. On this album, Charles created songs within the genre of R&B, pop, and jazz from different country, folk, and Western music standard classics.

Earning His Legendary Title: Father of Soul

Charles struggled with drug addiction for several years, but managed to turn his life around at a clinic in Los Angeles. As time continued to pass, he released his autobiography called “Brother Ray” to share his journey with fans all across the world. In the 80’s Ray was one of the first artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside other legends such as Sam Cooke and James Brown. Ray Charles unfortunately passed away on June 10, 2004 from liver disease. His legacy in a variety of music genres continues to reign through present day. In his lifetime, he released 60 albums and performed more than 10,000 concerts. Hsi life story was so inspiring that a film about his journey called Ray was released starring famous actor Jamie Foxx. Ray Charles most definitely earned his title of the “Father of Soul”.

Listen to Ray Charles Below!


“Ray Charles.” Edited by,, A&E Networks Television, 13 Aug. 2019,

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