Top 10 Ray Charles Hits

Written by on 23 December, 2021

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Ray Charles Robinson was born on September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia. The family moved to Greenville, Florida while Ray was still an infant. Ray’s brother, George, drowned in a washtub when George was only four.

When he was five, Ray became partially blind and by the age of seven, he was completely blind, due to glaucoma. He was sent to the State School for Deaf and Blind Children in St. Augustine, Florida, where he studied classical piano and clarinet from 1937-1945.

His father died when Ray was ten and in 1946, when he was 15, his mother passed away.

Ray moved around Florida and played piano with local bands. In 1948, he moved to Seattle where he formed The McSon Trio, also known as the Maxim Trio and The Maxine Trio, with Gossady McGhee on guitar and Milton Garred on bass. They recorded in the King Cole Trio style.

In 1951, he changed his name to Ray Charles, instead of Ray Robinson, so as not to be confused with boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.

He was signed to Atlantic Records in 1952 and charted on the R&B charts. He employed the girl’s singing group, The Cookies (“Chains,” “Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad About My Baby”) as his backup singers, calling them The Raelettes.

His first crossover hit was in 1959 with “What’d I Say.” It was also in 1959 that Ray moved to ABC-Paramount Records where he was instrumental in being the first African-American artist to crossover from R&B to Country.

On the charts, according to Billboard’s Top 40 charts, Ray had thirty-three Top 40 pop singles, with three of them going to number one. Here’s a look at Ray Charles’ ten biggest hits, according to Billboard’s Top 40 charts:


1. I Can’t Stop Loving You – 1962 – Ray’s biggest single was originally written and recorded by country singer Don Gibson. Ray’s version went to number one for five weeks.

2. Hit The Road Jack – 1961 – Ray’s second number one single won the Grammy Award for best Rhythm and Blues Recording that year. The only other Top 40 version of this song was done by the Stampeders, featuring disc jockey Wolfman Jack.

3. Georgia On My Mind – 1960 – Written by Hoagey Carmichael in 1930, many versions of this song were recorded, but it wasn’t until Ray’s first number one single, that the song became a major hit. It was featured as the opening theme for the sitcom “Designing Women.”

4. You Don’t Know Me – 1962 – Jerry Vale went Top 20 in 1956 with this Eddy Arnold penned ballad, but Ray’s version went to number two. This song has been recorded by hundreds of artists, including Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan.

5. Busted – 1963 – Included in his album “Ingredients in a Recipe for Soul” Ray recorded a live version with Willie Nelson for Ray’s 2005 album of duets called “Genius & Friends.”

6. What’d I Say – 1959 – His only Top 10 pop hit for Atlantic Records, this single, divided into two parts, was recorded after Ray, with time on his hands at the end of a concert, improvised it and the crowd went wild. The popularity of the song was due in part to the controversial lyrics and sexual innuendo. Ray ended all his concerts with this song.

7. Crying Time – 1966 – Written by country legend Buck Owens, Ray’s last Top 10 pop hit won him two Grammy Awards for Best R&B Recording and Best R&B Performance in 1967. It was featured on Ray’s album “Crying Time.”

8. You Are My Sunshine – 1962 – Originally recorded in 1939 by Louisiana state governor and country music singer Jimmie Davis, Ray’s version went Top 10 and the flip side included another country standard, the Hank Williams tune, “Your Cheating Heart,” which went Top 40 for Ray.

9. One Mint Julep – 1961 – Considered one of the first “drinking songs,” it was originally recorded by The Clovers in 1952, but it wasn’t until Ray’s only instrumental hit that it ever went Top 10 on the pop charts. There have been many cover versions of this song.

10. Take These Chains From My Heart – 1963 – A 1953 Hank Williams hit, Ray’s version was featured on his album, “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Volume Two.”

Top 10 Ray Charles Hits

Ray’s last Top 20 pop hit came in 1990 when he teamed up with Quincy Jones and Chaka Khan for “I’ll Be Good To You.”

Married twice, Ray had twelve children from nine different women.

He had a problem with drugs and was arrested in 1961 and 1964 on narcotics charges. He admitted, later on, that he had been a drug addict since the age of sixteen.

Among his accomplishments, Ray’s version of “Georgia on My Mind” was made the official state song of Georgia in 1993.

Ray was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987.

Jamie Foxx starred as Charles in the 2004 biopic “Ray” garnering Foxx the 2005 Academy Award for Best Actor.

Ray Charles passed away on June 10, 2004, due to liver failure. He died at his home in Beverly Hills, California at the age of 73.

His last album was released two months after his death entitled “Genius & Friends” and consisted of duets ranging from B.B. King to Nora Jones.

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