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Postal Service issues stamp honoring Ray Charles

City News Service | 9/24/2013, 2:51 p.m.
United States Postal Service issues stamp honoring Ray Charles.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A limited edition stamp honoring the late Ray Charles was issued Monday at the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live in a ceremony featuring the first public airing of his previously unreleased recording of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”

Grammy winner Chaka Khan sang “I’ll Be Good to You,” alongside performers from the museum’s educational program. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, singer Michelle Williams and Charles’ son, Raye Charles Robinson Jr., also attended the ceremony.

“Ray Charles taught us the value of hard work and determination, how to overcome challenges and how to tap the genius inherent in each person,” said Valerie Ervin, president of the Ray Charles Foundation, which provides financial donations to institutions involved in hearing disorders and education.

Charles always maintained he did not feel his blindness was a handicap, but believed the inability to hear music would have been a handicap, and began to make contributions related to hearing impairment.

The stamp is based on a photograph taken by Yves Carrere from later in Charles’ career. It is the third and final stamp to be issued this year in the U.S. Postal Service’s Music Icon series. The other stamps in the series issued this year honored Tejano music star Lydia Mendoza and country music legend Johnny Cash.

The stamp was issued on the 83rd anniversary of Charles’ birth. In connection with its issuance, a deluxe CD collection, “Ray Charles Forever,” was also released. The CD features “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and the exclusive bonus track, “I Didn’t Know What Time it Was.”

The CD is available for purchase at major post office locations across the nation and online at the U.S. Postal Service’s website, usps.com and ebay.com/stamps.

Ray Charles Robinson was born in Albany, Ga., but his family moved to Greenville, Fla., when he was an infant. He was blind by age 7 due to glaucoma and attended a special school for the blind in St. Augustine, Fla., where he learned to read music in Braille.

Orphaned by the age of 15, Charles modeled himself after the legendary Nat King Cole and briefly played gigs around Florida before crossing the country to Seattle, where he met a young producer and musician named Quincy Jones.

By the late 1950s and early 1960s, Charles, who dropped his last name to avoid confusing with boxing champion “Sugar” Ray Robinson, had such Top 40 hits as “What’d I Say” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

Charles also would become known for his recordings of “Georgia on My Mind,” “America, the Beautiful,” “I’ve Got a Woman,” “Unchain My Heart,” “What’d I Say” and “Hit the Road, Jack.”

Charles was a 17-time Grammy winner and the only person to have recorded a Grammy-winning song in six decades. He was the first vocalist to have won a Grammy for recordings within a 46-year span — 1960 and 2004. (The feat was matched by Tony Bennett in 2006.)

Charles is also the only artist to have recorded 10 Grammy-winning recording with songs that were originally recorded by others.

“As a musician, Ray Charles was unmatched, a musical genius that made every song he performed his own,” Jones said in 2004 upon learning of Charles’ death of liver disease in Beverly Hills at the age of 73.

“There will never be another musician who did as much to break down the perceived walls of musical genres as much as Ray Charles did.”