After 47 years in the business that made him a music legend, Ray Charles received the Songwriters Hall of Fame Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award on June 2, 1993.
Born at the height of the Depression, Ray Charles Robinson grew up in Greenville, Florida, where he became blind at age 7. After earning a scholarship to attend the Florida State School for the Deaf and Blind, Charles studied Braille and developed an interest in music and also learned to play the piano, organ, sax, clarinet and trumpet. He went on the "Chitlin' Circuit" in the South after his mother died when he was 15. At age 16, Charles moved to Seattle, where he met lifetime friend and collaborator Quincy Jones.
He landed a deal with Atlantic Records in 1953 and in 1960 won his first Grammy for "Georgia on My Mind" and a second for "Hit the Road, Jack." In addition for earning a reputation as a master of rhythm and blues and jazz, he also enjoyed success in the country music field.
Following an arrest for heroin possession that forced him to quit a 17-year addiction, Charles collaborated with several renowned artists, including Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Chaka Khan and the Blues Brothers.
In January 1986, he became one the first inductees in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. He also is a member of the Rhythm and Blues and Playboy Jazz halls of fame and a recipient of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' Lifetime Achievement Award and the Kennedy Center Honors.
"I'll keep making music as long as there's anyone who wants to hear me," said Charles, who died on June 10, 2004.
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