Discover Ray Charles
Did you know Ray Charles, known as the Genius of Soul, is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame? Use this page to discover his connection to country music!
Ray Charles was one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. In the 1950s, he pioneered soul music. He also embraced many other styles of music, including jazz, blues, pop, and country music. In 1962, Charles released the ground breaking album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which blended his soulful style and big-band sounds with classic country music songs. Charles would continue to perform and record country music for the rest of his six-decade long career.
Artifact Bytes: Ray Charles
Genius of Soul: Who is Ray Charles, and what was his impact on country music?
“You see, I’m not a country singer, I’m not a jazz singer, I am not a blues singer. What I am is, I am a singer that can sing country music, I can sing the blues, I can sing a love song. But I’m not a specialist.”
Watch & Listen
Remix Like Ray
By the early 1960s, after writing many R&B classics, Ray Charles had virtually given up writing his own songs, choosing instead to interpret songs of many different styles written by others. In 1962, Ray released Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, an album of popular country songs reimagined in his unique style. The record was an immediate success, and a second volume was released later that same year. Modern Sounds continues to be celebrated today and is often cited as one of the greatest albums of all time.
Hear for yourself! The songs below are featured on the Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music albums. Hear the original recording followed by Ray’s version. What is the same, and what is different about Ray’s rendition?
Do you want to Remix Like Ray?
Follow along with our video tutorial to create your own version of an existing song.
Two of Ray’s most well-known recordings—“Hit the Road Jack,” written by Percy Mayfield, and “What’d I Say,” written by Ray himself—are classic examples of the call-and-response style of music that Ray would have heard in church growing up. Call-and-response music originated in Africa and became an important means of communication for enslaved people before ultimately finding its way into blues and gospel music of the American South.
Listen to this recording of a call-and-response song inspired by Ray and written by Nashville-based artist Kyshona, Museum educator Adam Ollendorff, and Museum guests in a Songwriting 101 program. Then, watch this video to get started creating your own original remix in whatever style you like using a web-based recording software called BandLab.