Many musicians possess elements of genius, but only one—the great Ray Charles—so completely embodied the term that it was bestowed upon him as a nickname. His staggering achievements over a 58-year career include 17 GRAMMY Awards, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Lifetime Achievement and the President’s Merit Award, the Presidential Medal for the Arts, France’s Legion of Honor, the Kennedy Center Honors, a NAACP Image Awards’ “Hall of Fame Award,” and numerous other music Halls of Fame, including those for Jazz and Rhythm & Blues, a testament to his enormous influence.
Charles successfully mastered (and forever changed) the blues, jazz, gospel, rock, pop, and country music landscapes, continually airing his soulful heart. He teamed up with the best of the best in each stylistic genre, including B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder, and countless others. As he describes. “I’m not a country singer. I’m a singer who sings country songs. I’m not a blues singer, but I can sing the blues. I’m not really a crooner, but I can sing love songs. I’m not a specialist, but I’m a pretty good utility man. I can play first base, second base, shortstop. I can catch and maybe even pitch a little.” “Genius” doesn’t begin to describe it.