On what would have been his 83rd birthday, the “father of soul,” the late Ray Charles, made a return to Atlanta Monday as the latest inductee into the Postal Service’s Music Icons Forever Stamp Series. Singer Ashanti highlighted the event at Atlanta’s ceremony took place at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center at Morehouse College in Atlanta at 11 a.m. EDT
Chaka Khan will perform at the The GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles at 1 p.m. PDT. Both events were free and open to the public.
Available today in sheets of 16, customers may purchase the stamps at usps.com/stamps, at 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724) or at Post Offices nationwide.
At Morehouse, Ashanti performed and paid tribute to Charles (1930 – 2004) with a medley of his songs. The Morehouse College Glee Club also sang his hit, and Georgia’s official state song, “Georgia on My Mind.”
At the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, where Charles has been recognized with 17 GRAMMY Awards, Ten-time GRAMMY award winner, singer, songwriter, actor and activist Chaka Khan will sing, “I’ll Be Good to You.” Musicians from the GRAMMY Museum’s educational program Summer Sessions were also scheduled to perform.
In 1989, Charles and Khan re-recorded the 1976 hit written by the Brothers Johnson. With the remake of “I’ll Be Good to You,” produced by Quincy Jones, the song became another number one R&B hit on the Billboard charts and was Charles’ first number one R&B hit in 24 years. In 1991, Charles and Khan won a GRAMMY Award for “I’ll Be Good to You” for the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
“Frank Sinatra, himself a stamp honoree, once characterized Ray Charles as ‘the only true genius in show business,’ and certainly, if anyone was a musical genius, it was Ray Charles,” said U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer William Campbell, who dedicated the stamp at the Atlanta ceremony. “Despite being blind and having a young life marked by tragedy, hardship and tremendous challenges, Ray Charles went on to have a remarkable 58-year career playing music that blurred the lines of jazz, gospel, blues and, in later years, country. In doing so, he became the personification of the American Dream.”
The limited-edition Ray Charles Forever Stamp as well as Ray Charles Forever, a deluxe CD collection featuring the unreleased recording of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and the exclusive bonus track, “I Didn’t Know What Time it Was,” will be available at major Post Office locations across the country, as well as online at usps.com/stamps and ebay.com/stamps.
“Ray Charles taught us the value of hard work and determination, how to overcome challenges and how to tap the genius inherent in each person,” said Valerie Ervin, President of The Ray Charles Foundation, who will speak at the Los Angeles event. “We are extremely grateful that the Postal Service is celebrating this legacy with the release of a stamp in Ray Charles’ honor.”
The Ray Charles Forever Stamp features an image of Charles taken later in his career by photographer Yves Carrere. The photograph belongs to Mephisto Jazz, represented worldwide by the Dalle agency. The stamp sheet was designed to evoke the appearance of a 45 rpm single peeking out of a record sleeve above the stamps themselves. On the reverse side, the sheet includes a larger version of the photograph featured on the stamp as well as the logo for the Music Icons series. Art director Ethel Kessler worked on the stamp pane with designer Neal Ashby.
Genius has a stamp of its own: Ray Charles
Born Sept. 23, 1930, in Albany, GA, Ray Charles Robinson was raised in the small town of Greenville, FL, where a local boogie-woogie pianist gave him his first piano lessons. At the age of five, Charles began to go blind. His right eye was surgically removed. He learned to read Braille and was given lessons in classical piano and clarinet. He also taught himself to play saxophone while continuing to listen to a mix of jazz, blues and country music.
After his mother died in 1945, Charles left school and went to work in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa as a professional musician. In 1948, he went to Seattle, WA, and formed a group known as the McSon Trio. Charles signed with Atlantic Records in 1952, where he had his first national hit, “I’ve Got a Woman,” in 1955. Charles assembled his own band, touring along with his quartet of backup vocalists, the Cookies, later known as the “Raeletts.” In 1959, Charles scored a major hit on both the rhythm and blues and pop charts with “What’d I Say?”
But Charles could not be defined or contained by one musical style. He appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival and recorded a successful album with Milt Jackson of the Modern Jazz Quartet. In 1959, when offered financial incentives, Charles left Atlantic for ABC-Paramount. His growing audience continued to expand with two number one hits, “Georgia On My Mind” (1960) and “Hit the Road Jack” (1961).
Looking back over the course of his long career, there seemed to be little Charles couldn’t do. His work spanned almost the entire breadth of American music and brought him 17 GRAMMY Awards; the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986; an award for lifetime achievement in 1987; the National Medal of Arts in 1993; and, his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.