Ray Charles was born into poverty and at the age of 5 tragically witnessed the death of his younger brother who drowned in his mother’s laundry tub. Even at this age he loved music and started playing piano in a local cafe. Blinded by age 7, he attended St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind, where he also studied music. After the death of his mother, at the age of 15 he left school to begin his professional career, successfully overcoming all physical, personal and racial obstacles to become one of the century’s great musicians. He combined gospel, rhythm and blues, and jazz, in his music. As composer, pianist, singer, and band leader, first inspired by Nat King Cole, he became an original and popular musical icon, recording such hits as Mess Around, I’ve Got a Woman, What’d I Say, Georgia on My Mind, Hit the Road Jack, and more. He received 13 Grammys, including a lifetime achievement award in 1987, and in 1986 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and also honored at the Kennedy Center.
Ray Charles appealed to children too, as in his popular kids’ recording of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and in this 1978 video of his performance of Disney’s Zip a Dee Do Dah.