He was born during the Great Depression in the Deep South, on September 23, 1930 in Albany, GA. He grew up in a very poor family. His father, Bailey Robinson, was a mechanic and a handyman, and his mother, Aretha, stacked boards in a saw-mill. During the Great Depression there was almost no such thing as financial gain for anyone and especially for a black family living in the totally segregated South. His family was considered so poor that he once said; “Even compared to other blacks…we were on the bottom of the ladder looking up at everyone else. Nothing below us except the ground…”. At just five years old He had to endure the trauma of witnessing the drowning death of his younger brother in his mother’s large portable laundry tub. Soon after the death of his brother he gradually began to lose his sight and by 7 years of age he was blind. Although it is presumed that untreated glaucoma was the cause, no official diagnosis was ever made. His mother refused to let him wallow in self-pity however and since the sight loss was gradual, she began to work with him on how to find things and do things for himself. He had shown an interest in music since the age of 3, encouraged by a cafe owner who played the piano. At 7, he became a charity student at the state-supported school for the deaf and blind in St. Augustine, Fla. Although he was heartbroken to be leaving home, it was at school where he received a formal musical education and learned to read, write and arrange music in Braille; score for big bands; and play the piano, organ, sax, clarinet, and trumpet. His influences were the popular stars of his time like big band clarinetist Artie Shaw, big band leaders and pianists Duke Ellington and Count Basie, jazz piano giant Art Tatum, alto sax man and witty vocalist and bandleader Louis Jordan, and the great classical composers like Chopin and Sibelius. At night he listened on the radio to the raw melodies and hillbilly twang of the Grand Ole Opry, to the sanctified soulfulness of gospel, and to the secular emotional venting of the blues. Then at 15 his mother died and he had to leave school and began touring the South on the so-called chitlin’ circuit with a number of dance bands that played in black dance halls. The amazing thing is that he never used a cane or guide dog or begged for money! This blind but vision minded fellow is none other than Ray Charles. Though at the age of 73 (June 10, 2004) he died from acute liver disease, he left behind a long list of hits and Grammy awards and the musicians he influenced are as diverse in genre as the music he wrote, arranged, performed and recorded. Ray Charles was an explorer who returned time and again from expeditions across musical boundaries to give us, in his own unique way, melodious stories and charts of his adventures. In so doing he changed what had previously been only a black and white territorial paper map of American music into a 3-D, solid terrain model, full of color. Today, he left behind many hit songs such as Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand, I Got A Woman, What’d I Say, I’m Movin’ On, I Can’t Stop Loving You, Busted …. In his well-traveled career, Charles won 12 competitive Grammys, earned three Emmy nominations, scored the Kennedy Center Honors, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Medal of Arts and inductions into the Rock, Jazz and Rhythm and Blues halls of fame.

If a blind man like this could have a vision and succeed in his field, then you can too. Don’t let anything whatsoever stop you from achieving your dreams. Keep fueling your vision.

“Your real eyes dwells in your mind, learn to use it” ~ Culled from 1001 top KaySuccess’ Quotes ~

Till next time. Remain success-full.


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