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Was born on September 23, 1930 in Albany Georgia. His father was Bailey Robinson, a railroad repair man, and his mother was ‘Retha. His father never married his mother. His legal wife was Mary Jane, who also helped to raise Charles.
By the time he was three, young Charles was learning to play the piano. When he was five his brother, who was three at the time, drowned. A few months later Charles got the disease that would make him go blind by the time he was seven.
After he became totally blind at the age of seven, Charles went to a school for the blind in St. Augustine, Florida, where he learned to play the trumpet, the saxophone, the clarinet, and organ, though his preferred instrument is still the piano.
When Charles was 15, his mother died from food poisoning. He decided to become a musician soon afterwards and he set out on his own. He played with various band throughout Florida until he was seventeen. He then wanted to get as far away as possible from Tampa and also stay in the United States, so he bought a bus ticket to Seattle and left. Eventually Charles dropped his surname.
There he entered a contest and was given a job at a nearby Elks club. After a numerous amount of months, a record producer noticed him and Charles had his first album: “Confession Blues.” Afterward Charles went on the road for a few years. He played at bars around the country. It was known by musicians as the chitlin’ circuit.
Soon Charles stopped imitating other musicians, as he had been doing up until this point, and began to combine gospel and rhythm and blues, and, in doing so, created soul. He is still called the “Genius of Soul” today. In 1955 Charles made recorded “I’ve Got a Women”, and made history. It helped pave the way for soul for years to come.
In the 1960’s Charles recorded “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (a piece of country music) with a large orchestra and his own voice. This song, like his others, was loved by the American people.
Unfortunately, in the 1940’s Charles became addicted to heroin, and in 1964 he was arrested for it. While he was awaiting his trial he went to an award ceremony in which his son, Ray Jr. was receiving an award. He had to leave before his son received his award, so Ray Jr. cried. Charles, seeing this, realized that his son would be very hurt if someone yelled out that Charles was a drug addict, so he went to the hospital and went “cold turkey” on drugs. After a year, he was over the addiction.
Charles is a man of extremes. He was impatient, and he would not listen to complaints. When he was happy, he was very happy, and when he was sad he was very sad.
Today, Charles has two ex-wives, nine children, and seven grandchildren. He has vowed to remain a bachelor because of his two failed marriages. He is often seen on television now, as a spokes person for Pepsi-Cola. He has earned his place in music history, a living legend.
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