Known as “The Genius,” Ray Charles was one of the most innovative and influential musicians of the 20th century, creating such groundbreaking hits as “Georgia On My Mind,” “Unchain My Heart” and “Hit the Road, Jack.” His musical talent and flair for performance made him an icon, but his ability to overcome the odds—blindness, poverty and segregation—makes his story even more compelling. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will explore the life and inimitable impact of the celebrated singer, pianist, and composer with “Ray Charles: ‘The Genius,’” a new display opening Oct. 28. During a career spanning more than five decades, Charles earned worldwide acclaim and received countless honors, including 12 Grammy Awards; induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; and the National Medal of the Arts. His hits both crossed and combined genres, developing a unique style that found a wide audience and left a lasting influence on American culture. Artists such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett and Willie Nelson found inspiration in Charles’ music. “Ray Charles: ‘The Genius’” will feature items highlighting his 53-year career, as well as those from his longtime business manager and emcee Joe Adams. Objects on display will include his signature Ray-Ban sunglasses; a Yamaha KX-88 keyboard, with customized braille markings; tuxedos worn during performances in the 1990s; braille editions of Reader’s Digest and Playboy; concert programs; and Adams’ tuxedo jacket. The objects were recently donated by Adams in a ceremony Sept. 21, two days before what would have been Charles’ 75th birthday. The National Museum of American History is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W. and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25. For more information, visit the museum’s Web site at http://americanhistory.si.edu.
Can’t Stop Loving You
Smithsonian Commemorates Life and Music of Ray Charles
October 2, 2005