Ray Charles was one of the most inspirational, and successful singers in the history of music in the United States. Charles combined several musical influences to create his own, unique style that served him well during his career. His influences included genres such as gospel, blues, jazz, pop, Rock 'n' Roll, and country music. Although he was born sighted, he developed a severe case of glaucoma at the age of five, and was completely blind by the age of seven, but that did not hold him back.
Born on September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia, Charles and his family moved to Greenville, Florida when he was just an infant. His mother was a devout Christian, and Charles was expected to attend bible study, and church services. His musical interests were sparked by the owner of a small cafe near his home, who played the piano for his customers. Charles was fascinated by the cafe owner's talent, and wanted to learn to play.
When Charles was five, he developed problems with his sight. It is uncertain what caused him to start losing his sight, and it went undiagnosed, and untreated. By the age of seven, he was completely blind. This led to his enrollment into a special school for the blind in St. Augustine, Florida. It was at this school that Charles learned to make music.
Charles' career spanned nearly 60 years, and he is considered by many musicians, producers, fans, and other artists as a pioneering legend in jazz. His hit singles include Hit the Road Jack, Georgia on My Mind, I've Got a Woman, and I Can't Stop Loving You. Charles branched out in the entertainment industry by acting in several films, including the very popular Blues Brothers. Charles struggled with addiction for most of his life, and died in 2004. He was married twice, and had 12 children.