Singer, Entertainer. Born in Albany, Georgia, he was blind by age 7 and an orphan at 15. He spent his life shattering any notion of musical boundaries and defying easy definition. A gifted pianist and saxophonist, he dabbled in country, jazz, big band and blues, and put his stamp on it all with a deep, warm voice roughened by heartbreak from a childhood in the segregated South. Ray Charles won nine of his 12 Grammy Awards between 1960 and 1966, including the best R&B recording three consecutive years ("Hit the Road Jack," "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Busted"). His versions of other songs are also well known, including "Makin' Whoopee" and a stirring "America the Beautiful." Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell wrote "Georgia on My Mind" in 1931 but it didn't become Georgia's official state song until 1979, long after Ray Charles turned it into an American standard. He learned to read and write music in Braille, score for big bands and play instruments, including trumpet, clarinet, organ, alto sax and the piano. His last Grammy came in 1993 for "A Song for You," but he never dropped out of the music scene. He continued to tour and long treasured time for chess.
Bio by: Ron Moody
Eileen Ramona Williams Pettigrew
1922–1971 (m. 1951)