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Introduction to Ray's Life
For many people, the birth of American Soul can be traced directly back to 1954 and the incendiary Atlantic Records single "I've Got a Woman," performed by a rising young artist named Ray Charles. Mixing the Blues and Gospel in ways that had previously been taboo and mysteriously managing to merge sexual and spiritual, raw and tender, longing and lightness into one unforgettable, heart-pounding sound, the song literally shook the world. It was the catalyst that lit a fire in countless young musicians who'd never heard anything like it, and the spark that helped set off an explosively creative period in American culture that led to the rock ‘n' roll revolution and beyond…not to mention igniting Ray Charles' own 50-year career.

But just as amazing as the sound was the man from whom it emerged. The late musical legend Ray Charles has been dubbed "The Genius of Soul"—but what about the soul of the genius? While almost everyone knows and loves Ray Charles' music—which would grow to encompass and re-create nearly every uniquely American style from Jazz to Country—few know the real story behind his hard-fought journey to artistic triumph.

Ray Charles was not only a brilliant performer at his trademark piano, a savvy businessman who took unprecedented control of his career and a musical pioneer who forged a path for others to follow…but he was also a man in search of his own redemption. The same childhood tragedy that inspired Ray Charles to create so feverishly also haunted his every move until he was able to finally face his past.

Says Taylor Hackford: "Ray Charles' life was an absolutely fantastic journey. In this film I wanted to present the complexity of this American genius, warts and all. Ray had immense courage and brilliance, but his life also contained horrible tragedy and elusive demons. With Ray we have tried to show the evolution of an artist through an incredible period of cultural change. I hope people see through this film that Ray Charles is so much more than a musician of the past. He influenced a vibrant, cultural revolution in America that is still going on today."

In an interview a few months before his death, Ray Charles said about the film: "I can see that Taylor's done his homework. He's got my life down pretty good. I would like for the people to understand the trials and tribulations that I've gone through from when I was a little kid up until I really got into my career and all the different things that happened to me over the years. I mean, I've had some wonderful things to happen to me, but yet I've had some pretty dramatic things to happen to me, too. I would like for people to know that you can recover from a lot of adversity that you might have in your life if you keep pressing on—if you still feel you know where you want to go. In other words, you don't give up just because you get knocked down a few times."

Ray Charles was a man of uniquely American contradictions, a dichotomous blend of big-city savvy and back-country simplicity, of sincerity and guile, of shouts and whispers. He never liked labels or barriers of any kind, so his songs transcended genres, tapping into the whole wide range of American roots music and blurring the separations between Jazz, R&B, Country and Gospel to create something original, exuberant and moving. It was said that he could just as easily make you dance as break your heart, could evoke joy as deeply as desolation, and sometimes he did both in the same song. For Ray Charles, life itself was like that…full of pain, trouble and sorrows as well as exaltation, beauty and salvation.

Born into crushing, Depression-era poverty on September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia, Ray Charles Robinson fell in love with music at a very young age. He was exposed to both the call-

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