Today in Music History: Remembering Ray Charles

Ray Charles performing circa 1980s
American singer, pianist and songwriter Ray Charles performs in concert, 1980s. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

History Highlight:

Today in 2004, Ray Charles died at age 73. Charles was a pioneer of soul music and was influenced by jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, and country. Frank Sinatra called him "the only true genius in show business". Blind from the age of seven, he didn't let that stop him from achieving massive success with his seven albums and his massive contributions to the racial integration of country and pop music over his lifetime.

Also, Today In:

1964 - During a recording session at Chess Records in Chicago, The Rolling Stones ran into a couple of their heroes: Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon.

1967 - Bob Dylan and The Band began recording the legendary Basement Tapes in Woodstock, N.Y.

1972 - Sammy Davis Jr started a three week run at No. 1 on the U.S. singles chart with "Candy Man", his only No. 1. The song was taken from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder.

1976 - Paul McCartney and Wings set a new indoor concert attendance record of 67,100 at the newly-opened Kingdome in Seattle.

1977 - Joe Strummer and Topper Headon from The Clash were each fined £5 ($8.50) by a London court for spray-painting "The Clash" on a wall.

1978 - John Travolta and Olivia Newton John went to No. 1 on the U.S. singles chart with "You're The One That I Want."

1986 - Bob Geldof was awarded an honorary Knighthood for his efforts to raise funds to eradicate famine in Ethiopia. Geldoff's coordination of the charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas" in 1984 kicked off a massive awareness of the issue of hunger in Africa (spawning the American response, "We Are The World"), culminating in the Live Aid concerts of 1985.

1989 - Bette Midler went to No. 1 on the U.S. singles chart with "Wind Beneath My Wings", which was included in the film Beaches.

1989 - De La Soul's debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, peaked at No. 24 on the Billboard 200 chart. On the same day, "Me, Myself and I" hit No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

2000 - Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP, featuring "Stan" and "The Real Slim Shady," began an eight-week run at No. 1 in the U.S.

2001 - Radiohead went to No. 1 on the U.K. album chart with Amnesiac. The band's fifth studio album debuted at No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and produced three singles, "Pyramid Song," "I Might Be Wrong," and "Knives Out."

2007 - The Rolling Stones played their first U.K. festival in over 30 years when they appeared at the Isle of Wight Festival. The Stones arrived at the Isle of Wight on their own privately chartered ferry for their 200-strong entourage including five Winnebago trailers and a private security team. The Stones' last U.K. festival appearance was at Knebworth Fair in 1976.

2016 - Rod Stewart was knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours list for services to music and charity. Stewart said, "I've led a wonderful life and have had a tremendous career thanks to the generous support of the great British public. This monumental honor has topped it off and I couldn't ask for anything more."

2017 - Gorillaz staged their first Demon Dayz Festival, which took place at Dreamland amusement park in Margate, Kent, England. Performers included Mavis Staples, De La Soul and Carly Simon, all of whom appeared on their album Humanz.

2020 - Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Flaming Lips performed their tune "Race For The Prize" from inside massive plastic bubbles on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Each audience member was also enclosed in their own bubble to keep the coronavirus at bay.


Chester Burnett (Howlin' Wolf) was born today in 1910.

Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minn., today in 1922.

Shirley Owens of The Shirelles is 80.

Kim Deal of The Pixies and The Breeders is 60.

Kim Deal's twin sister Kelley Deal of The Breeders is also 60.

Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin is 57.

Joey Santiago of The Pixies is 56.

Darren Robinson of The Fat Boys was born today in 1967.

Faith Evans is 48.

Highlights for Today in Music History are gathered from This Day in Music, Paul Shaffer's Day in Rock, Song Facts and Wikipedia.

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