September 23, 1930 - June 10, 2004
"To be a Raelette,
you have to "let" Ray."
Charles came into this world as Ray Charles Robinson from Albany, GA, and he left it as Ray
Charles Robinson with a huge list of professional accomplishments as well as a string of mistresses, two marriages, nine children (with five different women), twenty grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. He became blind at seven (glaucoma), and by
a lot of accounts was a terrific guy, but his womanizing, drinking and drug use
Ray had struggled with heroin
addiction for two decades. He was
arrested three times for drug
violations. He quit music for a
year to get off it. He claimed to be lucky, because he had the "bread to
buy decent junk... and a "high grade of justice."
From that point on he went on to make music history, earning twelve
Grammy awards in the course of his career. He appeared on television and in
movies as well, including a great cameo
Shake a tail feather.
in a series of successful commercials for Pepsi, uh huh.
was diagnosed with liver cancer in May of 2003, but publicly it was announced he
had hip problems. Even as the illness progressed, Ray still left the Beverly
Hills home he shared with his long term girlfriend Norma Pinella
to go to
reports stated that he left bed at home, to go to bed at the office. By November
he was canceling performances
for the first time in over fifty years. In March of 2004, his good friend Quincy
Jones presented him with the kiss of death, a Lifetime Achievement Award at the NAACP Image
Awards. This would be one of his final public appearances.
He was also working on a duets
album at the time of his death, titled Genius Loves Company, with Norah Jones, Elton John, and others. I saw
Elton on a chat show with John McEnroe a while back. He mentioned that
the song he and Ray did together, Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,
was the last recording that Ray ever did.
I'm fond of Ray, but he is no Kiki Dee.
studio was declared a Historical
frail. This is the plaque
erected inside, next to the ever so handy directory.
Thursday, June 10, 2004, he died at his home in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, at
11:35 AM, surrounded by friends and Norma.
The cause of death was Hepatocellular
Carcinoma. Urethra (I'm sorry, it still makes me laugh) Franklin, a close friend and colleague, said in a statement,
"He was a fabulous man, full of humor and wit. A giant of an artist, and of
course, he introduced the world to secular soul singing. Undoubtedly, the music
world will miss his voice. He's the voice of a lifetime."
He was embalmed by the Angelus
Funeral home, and put on display at the LA
Convention Center, where Steve Goldstein from www.beneathlosangeles.com managed to snap some great pictures
Steve notes that there were loads of
in attendance, and fans filed slowly by Ray in the
Box. The casket was on a raised
platform. Many fans stopped to sign the condolence book or write a
message on a huge poster of Brother Ray in performance.
One of the star's trademark black and silver jackets sat on
the empty seat of a piano.
service was held on June 18, at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in
Los Angeles. His son opened the ceremony, and attendees included Clint Eastwood,
B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Freda Payne, David Gest, Little Richard, Cicely Tyson,
and Glen Campbell sang, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and Willie
Nelson. Recorded tributes from Bill Clinton, Quincy Jones and Bill Cosby
were played, and Willie sang Charles� hit Georgia on my Mind.
Flowers in the church came from around the world including the Rolling Stones,
Ice Cube, Van Morrison, and the Oak Ridge Boys.
After the service, he was placed
in a hearse, and the cortege paused briefly in front of Ray's
studio, where this sign adorned
The hearse's destination was Inglewood Park Cemetery, where he was wheeled one
last time to the Sanctuary of Eternal
Ray was placed in a wall crypt.
I was there a few days later, and a pile of old
scrubs still lay there.
A bit of gossip I
heard from Popbitch: Listen
to Ray Charles' Georgia On My Mind: When Ray turned up to record this he was at the height
of his heroin addiction. He arrived late, accompanied by his girlfriend, and went to sit
by the piano. Nothing happened. Ray just sat on the stool, rocking back and forth. Then the
girlfriend knelt beside him, scratching his legs until she drew blood. This went on for
20 minutes until the blood poured down his leg. Suddenly Ray sat bolt upright, pulled down his
trouser leg and started singing, knocking out 20 amazing takes of the song.
Ray didn't take requests.
Sinatra gave him the nickname of "The Genius of Soul." It didn't stick.
brother drowned in front of him in a washtub when he was five. Ray tried to pull
him out, but he was too heavy for him to lift.
performed at Reagan's second inauguration ceremony in 1984. Ray died 5 days
drink of choice was (gag) Bols Gin, in a mug with sugar and coffee.
was an expert chess player, and played on a board marked with Braille.
Lastly: As with
a lot of people leaving money behind, it gets ugly:
Children Being Shut Out?
October 6, 2004
The soulful, sensational Ray Charles gave us
countless classic songs, and Friday night in Los Angeles, a constellation of big
names will try to give something back. Mary J. Blige, Elton John, Norah Jones,
B.B. King, Usher and Stevie Wonder are just a few in the line up of performers
to honor the life of the music master. In fact, thousands will share in the
tribute -- but 12 very important people will not: Ray Charles' children.
Family members tell "CJ" that producers of the show refused to involve
or even invite Ray's children. And what's worse is that three of Ray's daughters
Reverend Robert Robinson, a prominent Los Angeles minister and a son of Ray
Charles, was the only child permitted to participate in Ray's public funeral,
and now, Robert says being cut out of the concert is heartbreaking.
"We wanted people to know that he had a family, and that he was a family
man," Robinson told us. "Behind the scenes, people try to make it just
a business, like he had no other part of his life, but just the business of
Family members say it's yet another slap in the face since Ray's death. Recently
Mary Anne den Bok, the mother of Ray's youngest child, Corey, filed court papers
accusing Ray's long-time manager, Joe Adams, of denying Corey the financial
support Ray intended to provide for him.
Robinson says the public is getting the wrong idea about Ray's relationship with
his children. 'He supported my ministry when I was ordained," Robinson
related. 'All the other kids, he supported us through school -- that was a big
thing with him. He walked all my sisters down the aisle when they got married.
He was just a father."
The concert is being held to support "Ray," the new feature film about
Ray Charles starring Jamie Foxx, which is set for release September 29th. The
family says the icon was thrilled with Foxx's portrayal of him, and Foxx was
equally happy to play the part, insisting, "It was the greatest role in the
world; he was the greatest man ever."
And the kids feel that way as well, which makes the snub hurt all the more.
"That was very hurtful to us, like we didn't exist," Robinson said.
"You talk about the legacy -- we are the legacy."
The producers of the tribute issued a response, which says, in part: "The
idea to celebrate the music of Ray Charles was conceived nearly a year ago with
Ray's input. All of Ray's children have been invited to attend this special
have a Ray Charles Post Office in LA. Of course we have a Ray
Charles Post Office in LA.
Wanna see his intercom?
story was compiled by Kevin Hassell, Steve Goldstein, Michael Hansen, Mike Pare
and myself. Pics of Ray's drug busts came from "Rock and Roll
Babylon" by Gary Herman.
December 2004, from Findadeath friend Charles:
Hope all is well. I just found out from your
site that I grew up with two of Ray Charles's kids. Sean and Cory were
in my Boy Scout troop (322 Hollywood CA, now disbanded). I saw a lot of his
mother while growing up but nobody ever mentioned the father, after a while Sean
(the oldest) dropped out of the troop to live with his father (which the
fellas in the troop thought was strange, since he didn't speak too highly of
him), and Corey stayed with his mom. Now I hear his mom is trying to get
some money from him, I think that is so tight. Again, hope all is well, and
keep on keeping on.
Pal from Oz Brett Shearer sends
this: I don't know it you guys had this character over there by Ray
Charles was the basis for a McDonalds character called Mac Daddy in the
He wore a suit and had a head shaped like a giant blue moon,
with a mouth full of sparkling white teeth. I was about three when they cam
out with that, scared the crap out of me.
Heidi sends this:
Just thought you would find it interesting,
but Ray Charles did a song with the band INXS with the late Michael Hutchence.
The name of the song is called "Please
(You Got That) and it is located on INXS's album Full Moon, Dirty
Ruth sends this:
Ray had twelve children, not nine.
The story about his children not participating in the proceeds of the
concert is true. But then again, they really didn't need to.
I was told by someone who should absolutely know the truth that Ray gave
each of them a million dollars, tax free, when he realized that he was
dying. As for their assertions that he was a great father--well,
perhaps not. But he did give them money--the twelve he
Tom N. Sends us this: According to
David Ritz, Ray Charles had wasted away to 87 pounds by the time he
died. I thought you would want to know.
Rick sends us this:
The song "Uhh-huh" was
actually written by Prince, and given to Ray as a "spiritual
song" (the right one being GOD). When Pepsi approached
Ray for a song to use in their new campaign, he gave them "Uhh-huh,"
but insisted Prince be paid for it (most hardcore Prince fans are
aware of this story).
Prince actually received a good chunk
of change for his "GOD-song" to be used in a commercial!