Awarded: April 2000
(Sept. 23, 1930 - June 10, 2004)
Blinded since age 7 from glaucoma, Ray Charles studied composition and began playing piano and saxophone while attending the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind. After leaving the school, he played in a variety of bands in Florida and then headed for the West Coast, where he led a jazz blues trio. He landed at Atlantic Records in 1952, where he honed his style and recorded many chart toppers. Comfortable in such disparate styles as jazz, R&B and country, Ray earned 12 Grammys throughout his career. In 1986, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 1995 received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s annual Pioneer Awards.