The Country Music Hall of Fame has announced that Ray Charles has been inducted as an official member. Charles, who revolutionized the country genre and brought it to new audiences with albums like 1962’s Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, will be inducted in the "Veterans Era Artist" category.
Election to the Country Music Hall of Fame is country music’s highest honor. The Country Music Association (CMA), the country music industry’s trade organization, created the accolade to recognize significant contributions to the advance of country music.
Ray Charles’s recordings are major landmarks in American culture. By blending country and roots with other popular sounds, this visionary singer, songwriter, pianist and composer brought his expansive musical vision to a worldwide audience. Ray’s album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music was the first certified Gold album in country music history, and included the first world-wide hit record in country music with the single “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” According to the great Willie Nelson, “Ray Charles did more for country music than any other artist.”
"I'd like to thank everyone who voted to induct Ray Charles into the Country Music Hall of Fame," said Valerie Ervin, Ray Charles Foundation President. "Needless to say, Ray Charles loved Country Music. As a matter of fact, he risked a lot in 1962 when he decided to record Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. I cannot express enough how happy and honored Ray Charles would be at this moment in time, as I am for him. Congratulations to all the fellow inductees and as Ray Charles would say, 'That is so nice.'"
Ray further helped bring Americans together with his rendition of “America the Beautiful,” and he remains the only artist in history to create and define a national anthem. Charles was also one of the first recording artists to have ownership of his masters as well as complete creative freedom.
Charles’ staggering achievements over a 58-year career include 17 GRAMMY Awards, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Lifetime Achievement and the President’s Merit Award, the Presidential Medal for the Arts, France’s Legion of Honor, the Kennedy Center Honors, the NAACP Image Awards’ “Hall of Fame Award,” and numerous other music Halls of Fame, including those for Jazz and Rhythm & Blues, all testament to his enormous influence. In 2019, he was honored by the Grand Ole Opry with An Opry Salute to Ray Charles, which was broadcast across PBS stations.
One of the greatest artists of all time, Charles successfully mastered and forever changed the blues, jazz, gospel, rock, pop, and country music landscapes. He teamed up with the best of the best in each stylistic genre, including B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, Hank Williams Jr, Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder, and countless others. As he described himself. “I’m not a country singer. I’m a singer who sings country songs. I’m not a blues singer, but I can sing the blues. I’m not really a crooner, but I can sing love songs. I’m not a specialist, but I’m a pretty good utility man. I can play first base, second base, shortstop. I can catch and maybe even pitch a little.”
In conjunction with this announcement Tangerine Records has released a new lyric video for Ray Charles’ “Crying Time,” a signature country performance from Charles which was first recorded by Buck Owens in 1964. Also available to stream is a sampler playlist of some of his most beloved country recordings which features “Together Again,” “Take These Chains” and “Ring of Fire,” along with “Crying Time.” Additional singles will follow in the coming weeks, showcasing Ray’s works in the Classic Pop genre.
Stream: “Crying Time” (Lyric Video)
Stream: Ray Charles “Country” Sampler Playlist
In addition to his incredible contributions to Country Music, Ray Charles continued to do something no other artist had done before or since, conquering all genres of music, from gospel and R&B to soul, country, jazz, blues, and pop, which led Frank Sinatra to dub Ray Charles, the only “True Genius” in music.
These songs and many more are featured on True Genius, a newly remastered, limited-edition set featuring 90 of the greatest songs from his legendary career and all of Ray’s biggest hits, to be released on September 10th and available for pre-order here.
The digital release of True Genius marks the first time this incredible collection of Ray Charles most important works will be widely available on streaming platforms, bringing classic hits such as “Hit The Road Jack,” “Crying Time,” “Busted,” “America The Beautiful,” “A Song for You,” “Unchain My Heart,” and many, many more back to streaming after more than a decade.
Ray Charles was more than just the Genius of Soul; he was the True Genius of Music.