Music Legend Ray Charles to Perform at UB on July 17

By David Wedekindt

Release Date: May 1, 2003 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo Center for the Arts will present an evening with Ray Charles at 8 p.m. on July 17 in the Mainstage theater in the Center for the Arts on the UB North (Amherst) Campus.

In the field of music there are some things that are of such undeniable quality that there's no room for discussion or interpretation. The artistry of Ray Charles in one of those things.

From country to blues to jazz to R&B and even funk, Ray Charles has set the aesthetic standard for more than 50 years, earning fans across the globe and setting standards that his legion of fans -- in and out of the entertainment industry -- aspire to. More often than not he isn't called by his name -- or even his longtime nickname "Brother Ray." His is simply "The Genius."

His career has borne that title out. He has won 12 Grammies, and garnered a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. He has been inducted into four music halls of fame, a testament to his inescapable influence on all genres. Few artists, living or not, can claim to have had such a wide ranging impact on the music we love, and even fewer have altered the course of so many musical streams -- from his soul-jazz combos to his crucial R&B bands, to his landmark country music recordings "Modern Sounds in Country Music."

Ray Charles Robinson was born in Albany, Ga., on Sept. 23, 1930. Charles was not born blind -- he lost his sight to undiagnosed glaucoma at age seven. He enrolled in the St. Augustine (Florida) School for the deaf and blind, where he developed his enormous musical gift. After his mother's death, he set out as a solo act, modeling himself after Nat "King" Cole. Soon he found himself in Seattle, where he met a young Quincy Jones, and established a name for himself in clubs.

It was then that he dropped the "Robinson" from his name to avoid confusion with the legendary boxer. Starting his recording career in 1949, Charles soon began experimenting, mixing genres.

That came to the head in 1955, when he released "I Got a Woman." Charles reworded the gospel tune "Jesus is All the World to Me" adding deep church inflections to the secular rhythms of the nightclubs, and the world was never the same. That song is widely credited as being the first true "soul" record.

"You can't run away from yourself," Charles said. "What you are inside is what you are inside. I was raised in the church and was around blues and would hear all these musicians on the jukeboxes and then I would go to revival meetings on Sunday morning. So I would get both sides of music. A lot of people at the time thought it was sacrilegious but all I was doing was singing the way I felt."

That wellspring of deep emotion -- tempered by one of the 20th century's most keen musical minds -- long ago made Charles an American cultural icon. An artist instrumental in the creation of rock and roll, yet just as comfortable with the music of Gershwin.

Everyone remembers Charles singing "Georgia," "Born To Lose," "Hit the Road Jack," "I Can't Stop Loving You," or the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yesterday." Even more remember his epochal rendition of "America The Beautiful."

Tickets for Ray Charles are $45 and $35. Tickets are available from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Center Box Office and at all Ticketmaster locations, including Kaufmann's. To charge tickets, call 852-5000; in Canada, call 416-870-8000. For group sales, call 645-6771. For more information, call 645-ARTS. The Center for the Arts is a Ticketfast location.