12 Interesting Facts about Ray Charles

ray charles height
Last concert of Ray Charles, at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of the Place des Arts while the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal in 2003. Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich. Image by Victor Diaz Lamich on Wikimedia Commons.

Last updated on April 7th, 2023 at 10:27 pm

He was the Father of Soul that didn’t let adversity stop him from making a great impact on the world

Ray Charles left his mark not just on soul and jazz music but country music, too, making him one of the most diverse artists ever to be gifted to the world.

Here are 12 fun Ray Charles facts that any fan of the legendary singer would be interested in learning. 

Ray Charles Real Name

ray charles real name
Photo of Ray Charles at Grammy Awards rehearsal in 1990. Image by Alan Light on Wikimedia Commons.

Ray Charles was born Ray Charles Robinson on September 30, 1930.

He dropped his last name, Robinson, so he wouldn’t be confused with the boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.

Ray Charles’ Height

ray charles height
Last concert of Ray Charles, at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of the Place des Arts while the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal in 2003. Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich. Image by Victor Diaz Lamich on Wikimedia Commons.

Ray Charles certainly wasn’t lacking in height. The tall, dark, and handsome saxophonist was 5 feet, 9 inches tall.

Ray Charles’ Zodiac Sign

ray charles zodiac
Washington DC. USA. 1989 Ray Charles backstage at the Kennedy Center Honors. Image from Shutterstock.

Ray Charles was a Libra. Libra’s are known to be social butterflies, always outgoing, and love being surrounded by fans.

This is a pretty accurate description of Charles, considering his connections to other notable superstars.

Ray Charles’ Favorite Food

ray charles favorite food
Trade ad for Ray Charles’s single “Yesterday”, in 1967 cropped and cleaned in a graphics editing program. Image by ABC Television on Wikimedia Commons.

Ray Charles definitely had a sweet tooth. Research of Ray Charles facts reveals that his favorite food was Hershey’s Kisses. We can’t blame him. 

Why Ray Charles Started Wearing Sunglases

When Charles moved to Seattle and began playing in a trio band, the group eventually had promotional photos taken of the members together.

They found Charles’ unsightliness eyes would be better perceived if they were hid behind sunglasses. So they had an editor paint sunglasses on the image before sending it out to press. Those sunglasses became part of his signature look.

Loretta Lynn’s Sweet Treat for Charles

ray charles
Photo of Ray Charles in one of his classic poses at the piano in 1969. Image by William Morris Agency on Wikimedia Commons.

The way to Ray Charles’ stomach was Dump Cake.

It was a delicacy that legendary country singer Loretta Lynn was an expert at making for him. Now, that’s friendship.

Ray Charles: Chess Master

ray charles and ronald reagan
8/23/1984 President Reagan and Nancy Reagan with Ray Charles after acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Dallas Texas. Image by Reagan White House Photos on Wikimedia Commons.

Ray Charles loved playing chess and became quite skilled at the board game after learning how to play while in a rehabilitation program at St. Francis Hospital in Los Angeles in 1965.

Noting how it’s a matter of skill and not luck, Charles said of the game: “We start with the same pieces in the same places. You’ve got to outwit, out-think, and out-maneuver the other person.”

Rumor has it that he once beat “On the Road Again” singer Willie Nelson three times in a row.

Related: Willie Nelson’s Net Worth and Other Essential Facts About the Country Legend

Ray Charles Knew How to Fly High

ray charles
An image of Ray Charles at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam in 1968. Image taken by Erik Koch on Wikimedia Commons.

Ray Charles was an unofficial pilot of the five-passenger Cessna 310 that he bought in the 1960s.

Regularly piloted by one of the very few African-American Air Force veterans, Tom McGarrity, Charles would often ask him questions about the plane and help him work under the plane’s hood.

Charles could safely fly the plane by listening to the humming sound of the radar’s beam tones. 

Tricky Dick was a Fan

ray charles and nixon
President Richard Nixon and Singer Ray Charles Meeting in the Oval Office, 9/15/1972. Image from Nixon White House Photos on Wikimedia Commons.

Former American president Richard Nixon was a big fan of the Genius. Charles even visited Nixon at the White House in 1972.

Ray Charles Didn’t Let His Blindness Stop Him

ray charles blind
Ray Charles signs Ellis Hall to Crossover Records in 2002. Ray co-produced Ellis’ album “Straight Ahead” released in 2004. Image by ThinWhiteDuke on Wikimedia Commons.

Ray Charles may have lost his sight because of untreated glaucoma at age 7, but he didn’t spend his time feeling sorry for himself.

Charles still made a point to learn composition, classical piano, trumpet, organ, the alto saxophone, and the clarinet during his school years at the Florida School for the Death and the Blind from 1937 to 1945. He also learned how to read and write music in Braille.

Ray Charles Never Lacked in Working to Support Himself

ray charles house
Ray Charles Childhood Home, Greenville, Madison County, Florida. Image by Michael Rivera on Wikimedia Commons.

As if losing your sight at the age of seven isn’t enough to give us one of the saddest Ray Charles facts, the fact that he was an orphan by age 15 following the death of both his parents makes it even worse.

Don’t feel too sorry for him, though, because, once again, his reputation for hard work won out over self-pity. After finishing school, he worked at a drug store in Tallahassee as a register boy.

Ray Charles, an Honorary Blues Brother

ray charles blue brother
Sid Feller working with Ray Charles. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Ray Charles was at a low point in his career during the 1970s when disco was big and R&B was not.

He found another avenue, however, joining the cast of John Landis’ 1980 film The Blues Brothers as the owner of a down-and-out music store.

As a result, he joined other legendary R&B performers, including Aretha Franklin and James Brown, therefore beginning a revival of R&B after the movie became a box office hit.

Related: Love and Respect for the Blues Brothers

Ray Charles Had a Problem with Drugs

ray charles drugs
Joe Napoli and Ray Charles, Comblain-la-Tour 1964. Image by Mallory 1180 on Wikimedia Commons.

Despite his accomplishments in music and beyond, Ray Charles didn’t have a spotless record.

He was arrested in 1961 after police officers seized marijuana, heroin, and other drugs from his room.

He didn’t hide his drug addiction; instead, he sang about it in his hit songs “Let’s Go Get Stoned” and “I Don’t Need No Doctor.”

This is easily one of the saddest of any of the Ray Charles facts. Which of these fun Ray Charles facts was new to you?

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Written by Erik Ritland

Erik Ritland is a songwriter, musician, journalist, and podcaster based in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s released over a dozen albums since 2002, most recently Old Dog Almost Gone (2021), the first-ever multimedia album, and his latest collection of all original material, A Scientific Search (2020). During his 15+ years as a music journalist, Erik has written hundreds of articles for Music in Minnesota, Something Else Reviews, his own blog Rambling On, and more. In addition to continuing his music career, Erik currently runs The Cosmic American, a music journalism website, and is the editor of Music in Minnesota.


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