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.”

Ray Charles

Watch & Listen

“Believe in Yourself,” 1996

Ray Charles and Elmo sing together on Sesame Street, and Ray explains how he learns new songs by reading sheet music in Braille.


“What’d I Say,” 1963

Ray Charles wrote “What’d I Say” in 1958 as a spur of the moment improvisation during a concert. The song was a Top Ten pop hit when it was released in 1959. Watch him perform the song alongside his orchestra and the Raelettes during a tour of Brazil in 1963.


“Your Cheatin’ Heart,” 1988

Ray Charles shares how his music career started in country music and performs a soulful version of the Hank Williams song “Your Cheatin’ Heart” alongside his friend, country singer Ronnie Milsap.

CMA Awards performance, 1984

In 1984, Ray Charles released the album Friendship featuring duets with country artists. The record was a hit, topping the country album charts. This performance from the CMA Awards features Ray Charles alongside Ricky Skaggs, B. J. Thomas, Janie Fricke, and the Oak Ridge Boys.

Ray Charles Hall of Fame Induction Video

Learn more about Ray Charles in this video and on his Hall of Fame inductee page found here.

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?


Making Modern Sounds

Hear Ray Charles talk about making Modern Sounds and why it was a business risk for him to do so. His friend, country artist Travis Tritt, also shares how Ray was an influence of him at an early age.

"You Are My Sunshine"

Ray Charles performs “You Are My Sunshine” with the Raelettes at a concert in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1963. This song has been recorded by hundreds of other artists including Country Music Hall of Fame members Jimmie Davis (its author) and Gene Autry and contemporary artists like Zach Bryan and Morgane & Chris Stapleton. Ray’s version peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1962.

“I Walk the Line”/“Ring of Fire”

Watch as Johnny Cash introduces Ray Charles on an episode of The Johnny Cash Show in 1970. After Ray sings a bit of Johnny Cash’s song “I Walk the Line,” he sings “Ring of Fire,” a song popularized by Johnny Cash and written by June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore. Johnny Cash added mariachi style horns when he recorded the song. Here, Ray adds his own soulful twist to this country music classic.

"I'm Movin' On"

When Hank Snow released “I’m Movin’ On“ in 1950, the song spent forty-four weeks on the country charts. Watch him perform it on the Grand Ole Opry in 1967, followed by Ray and Travis Tritt performing the song together on the CMT Crossroads television show in 2002. This was one of Ray’s last TV performances.

"Hey, Good Lookin"

Hank Williams wrote “Hey, Good Lookin’” in 1951, and it topped the country charts. It remains popular with fans and artists today, and some even consider it among the greatest country songs ever written. See Hank perform the song on the Kate Smith Evening Hour in 1952, followed by Ray’s version, as performed with Ronnie Milsap on the television special Ronnie Milsap: In Celebration in 1984.

"You Don't Know Me"

Cindy Walker wrote “You Don’t Know Me” in 1955, and the song has since been recorded by hundreds of artists. Ray Charles’s release of the song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962 and became the best-selling version of all time. Listen to Cindy Walker sing the song on her Words & Music album (1964), followed by Ray’s version as heard on the Modern Sounds album.

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.

Download these files, then watch the video to begin remixing like Ray

Nashville Nights” Full Song

00:00  /  00:00

"Nashville Nights” Lead Vocal with Effects

00:00  /  00:00

"Nashville Nights” Lead Vocal Dry

00:00  /  00:00

"Nashville Nights” Background Vocals

00:00  /  00:00

"Nashville Nights” Bass

00:00  /  00:00

"Nashville Nights” Guitars

00:00  /  00:00

"Nashville Nights” Drum

00:00  /  00:00

Watch Remix Like Ray

Tennessee Arts Commission Logo
Discover Ray Charles is made possible by a grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission.

We use cookies in the following ways: (1) for system administration, (2) to assess the performance of the website, (3) to personalize your experience, content and ads, (4) to provide social media features, and (5) to analyze our traffic. You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website. Please consult instructions for your web browser to disable or block cookies, or to receive a warning before a cookie is stored on your computer or mobile device. Read our Privacy Policy.