[lang_fr]Ray Charles : Biographie[/lang_fr][lang_en]Ray Charles : Biography[/lang_en]

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Ray Charles (Ray Charles Robinson) surnommé « The Genius » (le génie) (23 septembre 1930 – 10 juin 2004) est un chanteur et pianiste américain de jazz, de gospel, de blues, de country, de rhythm and blues (origines du R&B) et du style qu’il popularisa : la soul.

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Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004) known by his stage name Ray Charles, was a pioneering American pianist and soul musician who shaped the sound of rhythm and blues. He brought a soulful sound to country music, pop standards, and a rendition of « America the Beautiful » that Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes called the « definitive version of the song, an American anthem — a classic, just as the man who sang it. »

Frank Sinatra called him « the only true genius in the business. » And in 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Ray Charles #10 on their list of The Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

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Ray Charles Robinson est né le 23 septembre 1930 dans une famille très pauvre d’Albany en Géorgie et a été élevé par sa mère à Greenville en Floride. Il a une enfance difficile, en effet, après avoir assisté impuissant à la noyade de son jeune frère de trois ans, il contracte une maladie oculaire (on pense que c’est un glaucome) à l’âge de quatre ans. À sept ans, sa cécité est complète et il est placé dans un établissement spécialisé.

C’est dans cette école que, neuf années durant, il apprend la composition, ainsi que la pratique de plusieurs instruments, dont le piano et le saxophone alto. Bien que l’enseignement musical qu’il y reçoit soit essentiellement classique, ses préférences vont dès cette époque aux musiques de son enfance : le gospel, le blues et le jazz et la country.

Âgé de quinze ans, il perd sa mère et décide de quitter l’institution. Il se fait héberger par une amie de sa mère à Jacksonville, où il commence à travailler comme musicien. Il tente ensuite sa chance à Orlando, puis à Tampa, où il gagne à grand-peine de quoi survivre en jouant du piano dans des orchestres de danse.

Ce n’est qu’en 1947, après avoir traversé tout le pays pour s’installer à Seattle, qu’il commence à se produire dans les clubs comme chanteur, avec sa propre formation. C’est là qu’il rencontre Quincy Jones, avec qui il se lie d’amitié. Après plusieurs disques sans succès, il enregistre «Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand», qui se place dans les premières places des R&B charts en 1951.
Il commence alors à forger sa personnalité musicale, s’éloignant peu à peu de ses premières influences, Nat King Cole et Charles Brown.

Aidé par Atlantic Records, sa maison de disques, qui lui laisse toute liberté de création, Ray Charles va connaître une décennie de succès. Le premier hit qu’il enregistre est «Mess Around», écrit par Ahmet Ertegün, son producteur et fondateur d’Atlantic Records. Il compose son premier grand hit «I Got a Woman». Viennent ensuite «Hallelujah I Love Her So», «Drown in My Own Tears», «This Little Girl of Mine», «The Right Time» très bien placés dans les R&B charts. Il faut attendre la sortie de «What’d I Say» en 1959, premier hit dans les pop charts, pour que le succès soit complet.

Fermement décidé à continuer sa percée en direction du marché pop, le chanteur quitte Atlantic pour ABC Paramount en 1959, plus à même de lui offrir une passerelle vers le public des Blancs. C’est ainsi que «Georgia On My Mind», «Hit the Road Jack» et «I Can’t Stop Loving You» vont se succéder entre 1960 et 1962 à la première place des pop charts, alors que d’autres titres comme «One Mint Julep», «Unchain My Heart» ou «You Are My Sunshine» continuent de culminer dans les R&B charts. Ray Charles concrétise le rêve de beaucoup d’artistes soul : Le « crossover », toucher à la fois le public blanc et le public noir.

Les affaires marchent alors tellement bien pour Ray Charles que, associé à son manager Joe Adams, il monte sa propre société de production « Ray Charles Enterprises ». C’est aussi malheureusement une période où il doit faire face à de sérieux problèmes de dépendance à l’héroïne. Malgré un petit passage à vide, Ray Charles revient en force en 1966, avec «Let’s Go Get Stoned». Après quelques chansons aux résultats encore honorables (dont ses reprises de «Yesterday» et «Eleanor Rigby» des Beatles), il disparaît peu à peu des charts.

Au cours des années 1980, il fait quelques apparitions sporadiques, à l’occasion d’évènements tels que le film «The Blues Brothers» ou la chanson «We Are the World» au bénéfice de USA for Africa. Malgré de nombreux changements de maisons de disque, il n’obtient plus que de modestes succès. Seule exception, son duo avec Chaka Khan en 1989, «I’ll Be Good to You», qui le réconcilie brièvement avec les pop charts.

Ray Charles continue inlassablement de tourner dans le monde entier à guichet fermé auprès de son public d’amateur jusqu’à un age avancé malgré une désaffection du grand public.

Il est récompensé de douze Grammy Awards, parmi les très nombreuses récompenses et distinctions qu’il reçoit au cours de sa carrière compte. Il est un des premiers à entrer au Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame en 1986. Il reçoit la médaille de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres cette même année et la chanson «Georgia On My Mind» est consacrée hymne officiel de l’État de Géorgie en 1979.

Il meurt à 73 ans d’une maladie du foie, le 10 juin 2004, dans sa maison de Beverly Hills et repose au cimetière d’Inglewood en Californie. Le 10 juin à partir de 22 heures, soit une heure après l’annonce de sa disparition, France Info lui rend hommage en diffusant toute la nuit ses chansons, jusqu’à six heures le lendemain. De même la radio TSF, station de jazz, lui consacra une journée entière.

Le lendemain, les titres de la presse nationale française rendirent également hommage au Genius, Libération titrant  » No more Ray « , Le Monde  » Ray Charles, la mort du Genius « . À noter que ce fut la première fois depuis sa création que le journal Le Monde mit en une de son journal la mort d’une personnalité autre que politique. Ailleurs, la mort de Ray Charles fut quelque peu eclipsée, notamment aux États-Unis, car elle fut annoncée la veille des funérailles nationales du président Ronald Reagan. Ainsi, par respect envers le 40e président des États-Unis, il n’y eut aucune réaction officielle le lendemain de sa mort. Ce n’est que le jour de son enterrement, le 18 juin, que George W. Bush rendit hommage à l’un des plus grands artistes américains.

Nombre d’artistes ont salué sa mort. On peut citer des personnalités de la musique comme Willie Nelson, Quincy Jones, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Neil Young, Norah Jones, Elton John, ou encore Stevie Wonder.

Marié deux fois, il a eu douze enfants : Ray Jr, David, Robert, Charles, Alexandria, Reatha, Robyn, Evelyn, Raenee, Sheila, Vincent et Corey.

Filmographie

2005 : Ray de Taylor Hackford avec Jamie Foxx dans le role de Ray Charles.
Ce film sorti en France le 23 février 2005, retrace sa vie de ses débuts à Seattle jusqu’à la résolution de ses problèmes de drogue à la fin des années 1960. Jamie Foxx, qui incarne Ray Charles, reçoit l’Oscar du meilleur acteur en 2005 pour sa performance. Il dédie son prix à Ray Charles qui l’avait personnellement choisi pour le rôle. Le film, également nommé dans la catégorie  » Meilleur film « , remporte l’Oscar de la meilleure bande-son originale. Il tourna aussi dans The Blues Brothers (1980) où il eut un énorme succès.

Discographie

Albums

1957 – The Great Ray Charles
1958 – Soul Brothers
1958 – Yes Indeed!
1959 – The Genius Of Ray Charles
1960 – The Genius Hits the Road
1960 – Dedicaced to You
1961 – Soul Meeting
1961 – Do the Twist With Ray Charles
1961 – The Genius After Hours
1961 – Ray Charles and Betty Carter
1961 – Genius + Soul = Jazz
1962 – Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (vol 1 et 2)
1962 – Spotlight On
1963 – Ingredients in a recipe for soul
1964 – Sweet & Sour Tears
1964 – Have a Smile With Me
1965 – Country & Wester Meets Rhythm & Blues
1966 – Crying Time
1966 – Ray’s Mood
1967 – Invites You to Listen
1967 – A Man and His Soul
1967 – Doing His Thing
1969 – I’m All Yours Baby
1970 – My Kind Of Jazz
1971 – Volcanic Action Of My Soul
1972 – Through The Eyes Of Love
1972 – A Message From The People
1974 – Come Live With Me
1976 – Porgy And Bess
1977 – True To Life
1978 – Love & Peace
1980 – Brother Ray Is At It Again
1982 – Wish You Were Here Tonight
1984 – Friendship
1984 – Do I Ever Cross Your Mind
1985 – The Spirit Of Christmas
1986 – From The Pages Of My Mind
1990 – Would You Believe
1993 – My World
1996 – Strong Love Affair
2002 – Thanks For Bringing Love Around Again
2004 – Genius Loves Company

Live

1958 – Ray Charles At Newport
1959 – What’d I Say
1965 – Live In Concert
2002 – Live At The Montreux Jazz Festival
2004 – Live At The Olympia 20 (Allemagne)

Ecoutez Ray Charles sur 121 web Radio !

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Ray Charles Robinson was born in Albany, Georgia to Bailey Robinson, a railroad repair man, mechanic and handyman, and Aretha Williams, who stacked boards in a sawmill; the two were never married. The family moved to Greenville, Florida, when Ray was an infant. Bailey had two more families, leaving Aretha to raise the family. When Charles was five, he witnessed his younger brother, George, drown in his silverlarge portable laundry tub.

When he was six, Charles began to go blind, becoming totally blind by the age of seven. Charles never knew exactly why he lost his sight, though there are sources which suggest Ray’s blindness was due to glaucoma. He attended school at the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, Florida. He also learned how to write music and play various musical instruments. While he was there, his mother died. His father died two years later.

After he left school, Charles began working as a musician in several bands that played in various styles, including jazz and, in Tampa “with a hillbilly band called The Florida Playboys. »

Charles moved to Seattle in 1947. He soon started recording, first for the label Swingtime Records, achieving his first hit with « Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand » in 1951, then signed with Ahmet Ertegün at Atlantic Records a year later. When he entered show business, his name was shortened to Ray Charles to avoid confusion with boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.

Almost immediately after signing with Atlantic, Charles scored his first hit singles with the label with the rap-like « It Should Have Been Me » and the Ertegun-composed « Mess Around », both making the charts in 1953. But it was Charles’ « I Got A Woman » (composed with band mate Renald Richard) that brought the musician to national prominence. The song reached the top of Billboard’s R&B singles chart in 1955 and from there until 1959, Charles would have a series of R&B chart-toppers including « This Little Girl of Mine », « Lonely Avenue », « Mary Ann », « Drown in My Own Tears » and « The Night Time (Is the Right Time) ».
During this time of transition, he recruited a young girl group from Philadelphia named the Cookies as his background singing group, recording with them in New York and changing their name to the Raelettes in the process. In 1959, Charles crossed over to top 40 radio with the release of his impromptu blues number, « What’d I Say », which was initially conceived while Charles was in concert.
The song would reach number 1 on the R&B list and would become Charles’ first top ten single on the pop charts, peaking at number 6. Charles would also record one of his finest albums, The Genius of Ray Charles, before leaving Atlantic for a more lucrative deal with ABC in 1959. Hit songs such as « Georgia On My Mind », « Hit the Road Jack » and « Unchain My Heart » helped him transition to pop success and his landmark 1962 album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, helped to bring country into the mainstream.

In 1964, Charles was arrested for possession of heroin, a drug to which he had been addicted for nearly 20 years. It was his third arrest for the offense, but he avoided prison time after kicking the habit in a clinic in Los Angeles. He spent a year on parole in 1966.

During the late 1960s and into the 1970s, Charles’ releases were hit-or-miss, with some big hits and critically acclaimed work. His version of « Georgia On My Mind », was proclaimed the state song of Georgia on April 24, 1979, with Charles performing it on the floor of the state legislature. He also had success with his unique version of « America the Beautiful. » In November 1977 Charles appeared as the host of NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

In the late 1980s a number of events increased Charles’ recognition among young audiences. He made a cameo appearance in the popular 1980 film The Blues Brothers. In 1985, « The Right Time » was featured in the episode « Happy Anniversary » of The Cosby Show on NBC. In a Pepsi Cola commercial of the early 1990s, Charles popularized the catchphrase « You Got the Right One, Baby! »

In 1989, Charles recorded a cover version of the Japanese band Southern All Stars’ song « Itoshi no Ellie » as « Ellie My Love » for a Suntory TV advertisement, reaching #3 on Japan’s Oricon chart. [13] Eventually, it sold more than 400,000 copies, and became that year’s best-selling single performed by a Western artist for the Japanese music market.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Charles made appearances on The Super Dave Osbourne Show, where he performed and appeared in a few vignettes where he was somehow driving a car, often as Super Dave’s chauffeur. At the height of his newfound fame in the early nineties, Charles did guest vocals for quite a few projects. He also appeared (with Chaka Khan) on long time friend Quincy Jones’ hit « I’ll Be Good To You » in 1990, from Jones’ album Back on the Block.

Following Jim Henson’s death in 1990, Ray Charles appeared in the one-hour CBS tribute, The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson. He gave a short speech about the deceased, stating that Henson « took a simple song and a piece of felt and turned it into a moment of great power ». Charles was referring to the song It’s Not Easy Being Green, which Charles later performed with the rest of the Muppet cast in a tribute to Henson’s legacy.

During the sixth season of Designing Women, Ray Charles vocally performed « Georgia On My Mind », rather than the song being rendered by other musicians without lyrics as in the previous five seasons.

In 2000, Charles made a special guest appearance on Blues Clues Big Musical Movie as a fictional character named G-Clef. The Temptations also made a guest appearance as his companions. Charles recorded « There It Is » during and after filming with Steve Burns and Traci Paige Johnson. After recording, Charles commented « This has been the most fun I ever had since I met President Reagan in ’84. »

In 2002 Charles headlined during the Blues Passions Cognac festival in southern France.

In 2002 he took part – with other musicians – in a peace concert in Rome, which was the first event to take place inside the city’s ancient Colosseum since 404 A.D. The event was organized in partnership with the Glocal Forum and the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation.

In June, 2003, Ray Charles presented one of his greatest admirers, Van Morrison, with his award upon being inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the two sang Morrison’s song from the Moondance album, « Crazy Love ». This performance is captured on Morrison’s 2007 album, The Best of Van Morrison Volume 3.

In 2003 Charles performed « Georgia On My Mind » and « America the Beautiful » at a televised annual electronic media journalist banquet held in Washington, D.C., at what may have been his final performance in public. Ray Charles’ final public appearance came on April 30, 2004, at the dedication of his music studio as a historic landmark in the city of Los Angeles.

He died on June 10, 2004 of hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) at his home in Beverly Hills, California, surrounded by family and friends. He was buried in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.
His final album, Genius Loves Company, released two months after his death, consists of duets with various admirers and contemporaries: B.B. King, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, James Taylor, Gladys Knight, Michael McDonald, Natalie Cole, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Krall, Norah Jones, and Johnny Mathis. The album won eight Grammy Awards, including five for Ray Charles for Best Pop Vocal Album, Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for « Here We Go Again » with Norah Jones, and Best Gospel Performance for « Heaven Help Us All » with Gladys Knight; he also received nods for his duets with Elton John and B.B. King.

The album included a version of Harold Arlen’s « Over the Rainbow », sung as a duet by Charles and Johnny Mathis; that recording was later played at his memorial service.

Two more posthumous albums, Genius & Friends and Ray Sings, Basie Swings (2006), were released. Genius & Friends consisted of duets recorded from 1997-2005 with artists were personally chosen by Ray Charles. Ray Sings, Basie Swings consists of archived vocals of Ray Charles from a live 1973 performance added to Count Basie’s music. Charles’ vocals recorded from the concert mixing board were added to a new accompaniment by the Count Basie Orchestra (among others). Gregg Field, who had performed as a drummer with both Charles and Basie, produced this album.

Charles was married twice and fathered twelve children by seven different women. He was married for the first time to Eileen Williams on July 31, 1951. This marriage produced no children and ended in divorce in 1952. Three children are from his second marriage to Della Beatrice Howard Robinson whom he married on April 5, 1955. They divorced in 1977. His long term girlfriend and partner at the time of his death was Norma Pinella.
His children were:
Charles Wayne Hendricks (son of Marge Hendricks – one of the Raelettes)
Evelyn Robinson (daughter of Louise Mitchell)
Raenee Robinson (daughter of Mae Mosely Lyles)
Sheila Robinson (daughter of Sandra Jean Betts)
Vincent Kotchounian (son of Arlette Kotchounian – worked with him as photographer on Would You Believe album)
David Robinson (son of Della Robinson)
Ray Charles Robinson, Jr. (son of Della Robinson)
Reverend Robert Robinson (son of Della Robinson. The only child allowed to attend his funeral)
Reatha Butler
Alexandria Bertrand (daughter of Chantelle Bertrand)
Robyn Moffett
Ryan Corey Robinson den Bok (son of Mary Anne den Bok)

Filmography

Swingin’ Along (1961)
Ballad in Blue (1964)
The Big T.N.T. Show (1966) (documentary)
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Limit Up (1989)
Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones (1990) (documentary)
Love Affair (1994)
Spy Hard (1996)

Discography

Albums

1957 – The Great Ray Charles
1958 – Soul Brothers
1958 – Yes Indeed!
1959 – The Genius Of Ray Charles
1960 – The Genius Hits the Road
1960 – Dedicaced to You
1961 – Soul Meeting
1961 – Do the Twist With Ray Charles
1961 – The Genius After Hours
1961 – Ray Charles and Betty Carter
1961 – Genius + Soul = Jazz
1962 – Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (vol 1 et 2)
1962 – Spotlight On
1963 – Ingredients in a recipe for soul
1964 – Sweet & Sour Tears
1964 – Have a Smile With Me
1965 – Country & Wester Meets Rhythm & Blues
1966 – Crying Time
1966 – Ray’s Mood
1967 – Invites You to Listen
1967 – A Man and His Soul
1967 – Doing His Thing
1969 – I’m All Yours Baby
1970 – My Kind Of Jazz
1971 – Volcanic Action Of My Soul
1972 – Through The Eyes Of Love
1972 – A Message From The People
1974 – Come Live With Me
1976 – Porgy And Bess
1977 – True To Life
1978 – Love & Peace
1980 – Brother Ray Is At It Again
1982 – Wish You Were Here Tonight
1984 – Friendship
1984 – Do I Ever Cross Your Mind
1985 – The Spirit Of Christmas
1986 – From The Pages Of My Mind
1990 – Would You Believe
1993 – My World
1996 – Strong Love Affair
2002 – Thanks For Bringing Love Around Again
2004 – Genius Loves Company

Live albums

1958 – Ray Charles At Newport
1959 – What’d I Say
1965 – Live In Concert
2002 – Live At The Montreux Jazz Festival
2004 – Live At The Olympia 20 (Germany)

Listen to Ray Charles on 121 Web Radio !

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