5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Ray Charles

On February 13, 2005, Ray Charles won eight posthumous Grammy awards including Album of the Year for his final album, "Genius Loves Company." Here are five things you didn't know about Ray Charles.

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"Charles" Is His Middle Name "Ray Charles" is not the artist's full name. His full name is actually Ray Charles Robinson, but he when he entered show business, he decided to drop his last name to avoid confusion with the famous boxer, Sugar Ray Robinson.

The Blues Brothers Renewed His Popularity The disco age in the 1970s overshadowed Ray's music genre, and as a result, his career started to fizzle. He also went through a number of personal difficulties and challenges, including a divorce and his own recovery from drug addiction. Luckily, in 1980, a film came into the picture that helped to renew Ray's career. That film was The Blues Brothers, which starred Saturday Night Live alum John Belushi and Dan Akroyd, featured Ray Charles as a music shop owner. In the film, Charles performed alongside other greats including Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and Cab Calloway. Not only was the movie a hit in the box office, and sparked a revival of Ray's music career.

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"Georgia on My Mind" Is The Official Song Of Georgia Charles released one of his most popular songs, "Georgia on My Mind," in 1960. It soared on the Billboard charts and reached number one. In 1979, it became the official state song of Georgia, where Ray was born. Interestingly, the song was not an original by Ray Charles. It was actually composed in 1930 by songwriter Hoagland "Hoagy” Carmichael. It has been asserted that Carmichael wrote the song about his sister, Georgia rather than the Peach State.

Ray's Wearing Of Sunglasses Has an Interesting Origin Aside from his singing and songwriting ability, Ray Charles is well known for his donning of dark sunglasses. But it seems the idea to wear them when he performed wasn't his. When he was 18 years old, he was part of a band called the McSon Trio with guitarist Gossie McKee and bassist Milton S. Garret. Evidently, it was McKee who had an artist touch up their publicity photos and add sunglasses over Ray's sightless eyes. From that point on Charles began to wear sunglasses while performing, and began the trend for blind musicians to do the same.  

Ray's Blindness Didn't Stop Him from Learning New Skills Ray lost his sight at the age of seven from glaucoma. But despite his lack of vision, he still managed to learn how to play the classic piano, trumpet, clarinet, organ, and alto sax in school. He could read and write music in Braille, and was an avid chess player. He even had his own chessboards made, one of which is now in the American History Museum. The musician’s board features squares of alternating height; the black squares are raised while the white squares are lowered. To help him identify the pieces by touch, the black pieces have sharper tops, while the white ones have round ones.