“I never wanted to be famous. I only wanted to be great.”
– Ray Charles

Ray Charles, Atlanta, 1983
Photo copyright: Enid Farber

Soul is when you take a song and make it a part of you — a part that’s so true, so real, people think it must have happened to you. … It’s like electricity — we don’t really know what it is, do we? But it’s a force that can light a room. Soul is like electricity, like a spirit, a drive, a power.
As quoted in LIFE magazine (July 1966)


If I can wrap myself up in that song, and when that song gets to be a part of me, and affects me emotionally, then the emotions that I go through, chances are I’ll be able to communicate to you.
A symposium on soul“, Pop Chronicles, Show 15: The Soul Reformation, interview recorded 3.8.1968

Music has been around a long time, and there’s going to be music long after Ray Charles is dead. I just want to make my mark, leave something musically good behind. If it’s a big record, that’s the frosting on the cake, but music’s the main meal. 

As quoted “Words of the Week” in Jet magazine, Vol. 64, No. 6 (25 April 1983)


I started to sing like myself — as opposed to imitating Nat Cole, which I had done for a while — when I started singing like Ray Charles, it had this spiritual and churchy, this religious or gospel sound. It had this holiness and preachy tone to it. It was very controversial. I got a lot of criticism for it.
San Jose Mercury News (1994)


You better live every day like your last because one day you’re going to be right.
As quoted in Wisdom for the Soul of Black Folk (2007) by Larry Chang and Roderick Terry,

Aretha Franklin & Ray Charles- February 1971 Fillmore West sheet 909 frame 33a

raycharles_jazzreflectionsRay Charles
courtesy of Jazz Reflections

I was born with music inside me. That’s the only explanation I know of, since none of my relatives could sing or play an instrument. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me — like food or water.


When I was going blind, I didn’t turn to God. It didn’t seem to me then — and it doesn’t seem to me now — that those items were His concern. Early on, I figured I better begin to learn how to count on myself, instead of counting on supernatural forces.


Then there were motorcycles. I learned to ride one in Tallahassee when I was about 14 or 15. … I got to know the town pretty well, and soon I felt confident about riding round. Tallahassee was full of hills, and I loved racing up and down ’em, sometimes trailing my friend or riding next to him, so I could hear the sound of the exhaust and make sure to follow closely and yet not too closely.
I know it sounds strange — a blind teenager buzzin’ round on a motorcycle — but I liked that; that was me. I had always been nervy, and I always had a lot of faith in my ability not to break my neck.


Affluence separates people. Poverty knits ’em together. You got some sugar and I don’t; I borrow some of yours. Next month you might not have any flour; well, I’ll give you some of mine.


Music is nothing separate from me. It is me. I can’t retire from music any more than I can retire from my liver. You’d have to remove the music from me surgically — like you were taking out my appendix.

Women anchor me. They’re there when I need them. They’re sensitive to me, and I’m sensitive to them. I’m not saying I’ve loved that many women. Love is a special word, and I use it only when I mean it. You say the word too much and it becomes cheap.
But sex is something else. I’m not sure that there can ever be too much sex. To me, it’s another one of our daily requirements — like eating. If I go twenty-four hours without it, I get hungry. Sex needs to be open and fun, free and happy. It’s whatever you make it, and I try my hardest to create situations where me and my woman can enjoy ourselves — all of ourselves — without our inhibitions getting in the way.

You got to set your mind right and the rest will come to you naturally. No restrictions, no hang-ups, no stupid rules, no formalities, no forbidden fruit — just everyone getting and giving as much as he and she can.
Brother Ray : Ray Charles’ Own Story (1978)



One thought on “Ray Charles (Sept 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004)

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