ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Reshaped American music for a half-century. Broke through many categories

with "Hallelujah I Love Her So," "I Can't Stop Loving You," "Georgia on My Mind,”

 and  "America the Beautiful." Claimed all of American music as his birthright.



 CDs by Ray Charles

The Genius of Ray Charles  /  Genius + Soul = Jazz / Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music

Friendship /

Ray Charles: Ultimate Hits Collection (1999)  The Very Best of Ray Charles (2000) Ray!: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2004)

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Ray Charles Chronology



Sept. 23, 1930 – Born Ray Charles Robinson in small town Albany, Ga. Grew up with his mother and two other children in Greenville, Fla., where they lived in extreme poverty, Fla. His father was a handyman and itinerant railroad worker.

1935 – Began losing his sight from an unknown ailment that may have been glaucoma.

1937 – Lost sight when he was 7. He began to learn piano from Wylie Pitman, a local boogie-woogie pianist. Soaked up gospel music at the Shiloh Baptist Church and rural blues from musicians including Tampa Red.

1937 to 1945 – Attended the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind and learned to repair radios and cars and started formal piano lessons. Learned to write music in Braille and played Chopin and Art Tatum. Learned to play clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet and organ.

1945 – Left school at 15, after his mother died, and went to Jacksonville, Fla., to earn a living as a musician. Played where he could as a sideman or a solo act,. Took jobs all over the state. Changed his name to Ray Charles to distinguish himself from the boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. Modeled himself on two urbane pianists and singers, Nat King Cole and Charles Brown, carefully copying their hits and imitating their inflections.

1948 – Moved to Seattle. Formed the McSon Trio, named after its guitarist, Gosady McGee, and the "son" from Robinson. Became addicted to heroin, lasted 17 years.

1949 – Made his first single, "Confession Blues," in Seattle, credited to the Maxin (a different spelling of McSon) Trio.

1950 – Recorded "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand" (second single),  by the Ray Charles Trio in Los Angeles with musicians who had played with Cole. Both singles were hits on the "race records" (later rhythm-and-blues) charts. Moved to Los Angeles.

1951-1953 – Joined the band led by the blues guitarist Lowell Fulson, and became its musical director. Toured United States for two years. Left  Fulson to resume his own career.

1953 – Signed to Atlantic Records. Moved to New Orleans to work with Guitar Slim as pianist and arranger.

1954 – Recorded with Guitar Slim's "Things That I Used to Do" (a million-selling single),  featuring Charles on piano. Abandoned his imitative style and freed his own voice. Moved to Dallas and formed a band featuring the Texas saxophonist David (Fathead) Newman. Convinced Atlantic to let him record with his touring band, playing arrangements that had been road-tested on the rhythm-and-blues circuit.

1955 – Recorded "I've Got a Woman" (first national hit) in a radio-station studio in Atlanta with his seven-piece band, starting a string of bluesy, gospel-charged hits, among them "A Fool for You," "Drown in My Own Tears" and "Hallelujah I Love Her So."

1950s – Became an architect of soul music, which brought the fervor and dynamics of gospel to black secular music. Expanded his band to include the Raelettes, female backup singers who provided responses like a gospel choir, and they became a permanent part of his music.

1958 – Made clear his allegiance to jazz, recording an album with Milt Jackson of the Modern Jazz Quartet and appearing at the Newport Jazz Festival.

1959 – Recorded "What'd I Say" (a late-night jam session), a blues with an electric-piano riff, a quasi-Latin beat ,and cheerful come-ons that gave way to wordless call-and-response moans. Single banned by some radio stations banned. Became a Top 10 pop hit and sold a million copies. Recorded "The Genius of Ray Charles" (his next album) with a lush string orchestra, half with a big band. Recorded his first country song, a version of Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On. " Recorded also with Atlantic the massively popular singles "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Cryin'," "Am I Blue," "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "Let the Good Times Roll."

1959 – Left Atlantic (after recording "The Genius of Ray Charles") for ABC-Paramount Records when it offered him higher royalties and ownership of his master recordings. Charles left Atlantic for which he had arranged the

1960 – Began to reach a larger pop audience with songs including two No. 1 hits, his definitive version of Hoagy Carmichael's 1930 classic "Georgia on My Mind" (one of his first songs to win a Grammy). Next came "Hit the Road Jack." 

1961 – Expanded his group to become a big band. Made an instrumental jazz album, "Genius + Soul = Jazz," playing Hammond organ with a big band featuring Count Basie sidemen. Made duet album with the jazz singer Betty Carter, two highly idiosyncratic voices sounded utterly compatible, that that included a favorite rendition of the strongly flirtatious "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

Arrested on drug charges in an Indiana hotel room before a performance. Police found heroin and marijuana, but case dismissed because officers lacked a warrant.

1962 – Released album "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music," remaking country songs as big-band ballads. His "I Can't Stop Loving You" reached No. 1 and sold a million copies.

After recording "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 2," settled into an office building and studio in Los Angeles that remained his headquarters.

1963 – Returned to rhythm and blues with: "Busted," Grammy Award winning.

1964 – Charged in Boston with possession of marijuana and heroin. Checked himself into a clinic for treatment and rid himself of his habit in 96 hours.

1965  – Arrested for possession of heroin. Spent time in a California sanatorium to shake his addiction and stopped performing for a year, the only break during his long career. Record "Country and Western Meets Rhythm and Blues."

1966 – Recorded "Let's Go Get Stoned." Started his own label, Tangerine, which released albums through ABC and on its own. Grammy Awards "Crying Time."

1971 – Joined Aretha Franklin for the concert she recorded as "Aretha Live at Fillmore West."

1970s (mid) – Started another label, Crossover, which released albums."

1978 – Released  best-selling autobiography, Brother Ray

1979 – his version of "Georgia on My Mind" was named the official state song of Georgia.

1980 – Appeared in the movie "The Blues Brothers."

1983 – Signed to CBS Records' Nashville division and made "Friendship," an album of duets with 10 country stars, which included songs with George Jones and Willie Nelson that reached the country Top 10

1984 – Sang "America the Beautiful" at the Republican National Convention

1985 – Took a part in the famine relief recording "We Are the World" (1985).

1986 -- Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Received Kennedy Center Honors, called "one of the most respected singers of his generation . . . the pioneer who broke down barriers between secular and sacred styles, between black and white pop."

1987 – Received a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement

1989 – Appeared on Quincy Jones's album "Back on the Block"

1990 -- Won another Grammy in 1990 for a vocal duet with Chaka Khan on "I'll Be Good to You." All in all he won a dozen Grammys for his recordings, as well as the achievement award. Appeared in television ads for Diet Pepsi, singing, "You got the right one, baby, uh-huh!"

1993 – Received the Presidential Medal for the Arts. Won his last Grammy for best R&B vocal performance for "A Song for You."

2003 – Underwent successful hip replacement surgery

2004 – 10 June – Died at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif – 73. Mr. Divorced twice,. Left behind 12 children, 20 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.

Reshaped American music for a half-century. Broke through many categories with such songs as "Hallelujah I Love Her So," "I Can't Stop Loving You," "Georgia on My Mind,” and  "America the Beautiful." Claimed all of American music as his birthright.

Made more than 60 albums, and his influence echoes through generations of rock and soul singers, bringing the essence of soul to country, jazz, rock, standards and every other style of music

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura Marνa Agustνn

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustνn makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

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The White Masters of the World

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 9 March 2012




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