South Georgians remember Ray Charles - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgians remember Ray Charles

Ray Charles performed at the Perdue inaugural. Ray Charles performed at the Perdue inaugural.

June 10, 2004

Albany- The voice of Ray Charles will forever be part of music history.

In Albany, he made history by giving the largest single contribution ever to Albany State University. A gift of $2 million in 2002.

He gave a total of $3 million to ASU. The university awarded him with an honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree in 2002 when he spoke at commencement.

Born in Albany in 1930, Charles lost his sight by age 7 and was orphaned as a teenager. But those setbacks could not diminish his interest in music.

"At a very early age just began to create his own niche for what was to become one of the greatest performers, I think, that this country has ever produced, that the world has produced," said T. Marshall Jones, who built the music program at ASU and still teaches courses there.

Charles beat a 20 year drug habit in 1965 and went on to win a dozen Grammys during his career.

"He had impact on other musicians from other genres," Jones said. "And when it all came together it was just good music."

His combination of jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, and gospel gave him a sound all his own.

"Music is within all of us," Charles once said in an interview. "Never met a person that didn't have music in them."

In Georgia, Charles' voice will always be heard through one of his most famous works, the standard that became the state song in 1979.

"He was an ambassador for this country, our music, to the world," Jones said.

Though his voice is now silent, his music will endure forever.

posted at 9:43 p.m. by brannon.stewart@walb.com