Ray Charles (soul musician, singer and songwriter)
Ray Charles Robinson (commonly known as Ray Charles; September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004) was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer who is sometimes referred to as "The Genius".
He pioneered the genre of soul music during the 1950s by combining rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles into music recorded by Atlantic Records. He also contributed to the racial integration of country and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, most notably with his two Modern Sounds albums. While with ABC, Charles became one of the first African-American musicians to be granted artistic control by a mainstream record company. Frank Sinatra called him "the only true genius in show business", although Charles downplayed this notion. He was blind from the age of seven. His best friend in music was South Carolina-born James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul".
Charles cited Nat King Cole as a primary influence, but his music was also influenced by jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, and country artists of the day, including: Art Tatum, Louis Jordan, Charles Brown, and Louis Armstrong. Charles' playing reflected influences from country blues, barrelhouse and stride piano styles.
In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Charles as number ten on their list of "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", and number two on their November 2008 list of "100 Greatest Singers of All Time". In honoring him, American musician Billy Joel noted: "This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley".