R&B innovator Ray Charles was one of the most important musicians of the 1950s. Despite being blind from childhood, he was hugely successful at fusing elements of blues, country, gospel and doo-wop together to form a kind of proto-soul.
Despite losing his sight at an early age, he never let his disability stop him from being a success and scored several R&B chart hits in the early 50s –- including “It Should Have Been Me”, “Mess Around”, “I Got a Woman” and “Lonely Avenue” -– all recorded on Atlantic Records. These songs were among the early blueprints for soul music, alongside the work of artists like James Brown and Sam Cooke. In 1959 Charles enjoyed his biggest hit yet, when “What I’d Say” topped the R&B chart and reached No.6 in the main singles chart.
After leaving Atlantic for a better contract at ABC Records, Charles enjoyed more crossover successes, including the pained ballad “Georgia on my Mind”, the swinging pop chart-topper “Hit the Road Jack”, and the pleading “Unchain My Heart”. His 1962 record, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, was a smash hit, topping the album charts for 12 weeks. It is remembered as one of the greatest albums of the early 60s.