Cart Cart(0)

On The Corner Masthead


August 7, 2017 | by SFJAZZ

Ray Charles

The “Genius of Soul” is nearly unsurpassed in his contribution to American music. In over fifty years of writing, performing, and recording, Ray Charles left his indelible mark on rhythm and blues, jazz, soul, rock & roll, and even country. We highlight five key songs that span his prolific career.

1. "Confession Blues"
Recorded in 1949, shortly after Ray Charles relocated to Seattle (where he famously met songwriter Robert Blackwell and a young Quincy Jones), "Confession Blues" was released on the short-lived Down Beat Records label as The Maxin Trio (actually, The McSon Trio, the label misnamed it). The song emulated the style of Nat King Cole (who Charles modeled himself after early on) and reached #2 on the R&B charts, his first national hit.


2. "I Got A Woman"
Ray Charles' first chart topper, and one of his best known songs, co-written with trumpeter Renald Richard while on the road in 1954. "I Got A Woman" reached #1 on the R&B chart after its release in 1955 on Atlantic Records. The song bridged together gospel, jazz and R&B into what would become Charles' signature sound, later dubbed "soul music."


 3. "What I'd Say"
Following a simiar sonic recipe as "I Got A Woman," Charles finally cracked the Billboard Top 10 with "What I'd Say" (Atlantic Records), as "soul music" entered the mainstream. At the time of its release, the song's sexual innuendos were quite controversial, but nevertheless immensely popular. It became Charles' first gold record, and his go-to closer for live shows.


4. "Georgia On My Mind"
Following the success of "What I'd Say," Ray Charles decided not to resign with Atlantic Records, opting for a lucrative deal with ABC-Paramount. Jazz fans may remember his 1960 Quincy Jones-collaboration Genius + Soul = Jazz (released on ABC's subsidiary label Impulse!), but it was his signature interpretation of "Georgia on My Mind" that received popular acclaim and four GRAMMY Awards.


5. "Here We Go Again" w/ Norah Jones
Charles' final studio album, Genius Loves Company (Concord Records), paired the legend with a number of former collaborators, peers and muses – from Natalie Cole, Elton John and James Taylor, to Norah Jones, Van Morrison and Willie Nelson. Released posthumously, the album is packed with hits and racked up eight GRAMMY Awards, icluding Album of the Year, as well as Record of the Year for "Here We Go Again."