Ray Charles’ Net Worth: From the Street of Orlando to Millionaire

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

Last updated on June 3rd, 2023 at 09:08 pm

Ray Charles was widely known for being an American singer, songwriter, and pianist who graced the stage in the music industry for quite some time. Most people remember him as one of the most influential and inspirational musicians of all time.

With hit songs such as “Georgia on My Mind,” and “Hit the Road Jack,” Ray Charles’s soulful voice left an indelible mark on the world. But, what was Ray Charles’ Net Worth at the time of his death? Keep reading to find out.

Ray Charles’ Net Worth

Known as one of the greatest musicians of all time, Ray Charles, at the time of his death, had a net worth of about $75 million. This was quite a feat for a man who came from humble beginnings where money was tight but he definitely wasn’t a billionaire as rumors said he was. He was, however, one of the wealthiest songwriters of the 1990s. 

ray charles facts
TRIESTE, ITALY – JULY 24: Maceo Parker at “Trieste Loves Jazz 2009” at Piazza Unita d’Italia July 24, 2009 in Trieste, Italy. Image from Shutterstock.

How Did Ray Charles Get Rich?

Although Ray Charles began to play piano and hone his interest in the music industry at an early age, it was not until he was in his early twenties that he found success. Once he signed a musical contract with Atlantic Records, Ray Charles became an instant success with his first hit song, “Mess Around” and was well on his way to becoming one of the richest performers in American music. 

After that, his songs were often found at the tops of the music charts (including Billboards Hot 100) while he toured around the world. With his notoriety, he became one of the first musicians to cross over to other genres successfully while keeping his listeners happy. 

With the success he received from his many different songs and performances, Ray Charles was able to amass quite a fortune for himself over the years. He also can attribute much of his wealth to his song royalties. With his soulful sound and ability to cross over from blues to pop and from jazz to country and more, Ray Charles was an iconic number-one musician often compared to The Beatles and Elvis, who were also popular during his lifetime.

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Ray Charles’s Cars

Because Ray Charles was blind, most people would assume that he never owned a car, much less ever had the opportunity to drive one. This, however, could not be farther from the truth, according to one of his sons.

Ray Charles is rumored to have had a 1963 Corvette, which he later totaled as a result of driving too fast and not being able to see where he was going(figures!).

Ray Charles’s House

Although he grew up in a humble home with his lower middle-class family in Greenville, Florida, Ray Charles found success in the music industry. This success allowed him to live in many different cities around the country and own different homes as well.

His most notable home was his primary residence in which he passed away in 2004 in Beverly Hills, California. The house was reportedly put on the market in 2015 and sold for more than the asking price of $5 million.

How Much Did Ray Charles Make Per Show?

Even though the amount of money Ray Charles made per show while touring is widely debated, it has been reported that he made as much as $3 million per year when he was in his prime. This success came from hard work and dedication to his craft and the fact that he never gave up his love for music and creating compositions.

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ray charles
Photo of Ray Charles in one of his classic poses at the piano in 1969. Image by William Morris Agency and is in the Public Domain.

Ray Charles’s Early Life

Born on September 23, 1930, at the beginning of The Great Depression, in Albany, Georgia, Ray Charles Robinson was brought up as the son of a mechanic and a sharecropper. While he was still a baby, his family moved to Greenville, Florida, where he grew up.

The legendary crooner became interested in music at an early age when he saw a cafe owner playing the piano. He began learning to play from the same cafe owner via lessons, and quickly took to the instrument.

Ray Charles saw tragedy at the tender age of four years old when his brother died in a drowning accident. It was shortly after this tragedy that Charles began to lose his sight before becoming completely blind by the time he was seven years old.

His mother, however, had extremely high hopes for young Ray and found a school where she hoped he would thrive. Ray Charles began attending the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, Florida where he learned many things including music history.

Although the school helped him in many ways, after his mother passed away when he was only 14 years old, he dropped out of school. He briefly went to live with a family friend in Jacksonville, Florida.

By the time he was 16, however, Charles moved yet again to attempt to make it as a musical artist. He lived in Orlando for a time where he reportedly lived an impoverished life where, at times, he didn’t even know where his next meal would come from he was so financially behind.

Shortly after this period, Ray Charles chose to move to Seattle to further his singing career and formed the band, McSon Trio. It was also during this time that he met Quincy Jones, who would become a great friend and collaborator to Charles.

Ray Charles’s Career

It was with the McSon Trio that Ray Charles recorded his first single, “Confession Blues” which turned out to be a national hit. After the release of two more songs, “Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand” and “Kissa Me Baby” he was offered a recording contract with Atlantic Records.

In 1953, the same year he signed with Atlantic, he was able to record and release “Mess Around” which became a hit on the R&B music charts. It was this song that would subsequently change history for this legendary musician and earn him his first Platinum record.

While Ray Charles seemed to start his career imitating the sound of legends such as Nat King Cole and Charles Brown, he ended up developing his sound. This sound which had both gospel and R&B influences became known as his signature sound.

Ray Charles was also known as one of the first musicians to crossover not only from gospel to R&B, but also to pop and even country music at times. He continued to write original songs and released several more singles that hit the top of the charts and by 1960, he would earn his first Grammy award for the hit song, “Georgia on My Mind.”

His second Grammy award came shortly after the first with the hit song, “Hit the Road Jack” which was an instant success. His following album crossed over even more into the country music realm along with his unique sound.

Despite the successes that Ray Charles had, he also had a penchant for heroin, which got him in trouble several times. This habit began when he was just a teenager but followed him into his career until he was arrested for possession in 1965.

After being arrested, however, Charles realized his mistake and went to rehab to break the habit finally. From then forward, he was able to focus on his musical talents which allowed him to earn quite a net worth doing what he loved. 

Although it occurred after his death, Ray Charles was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2022 alongside various other legendary musicians. The album, “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” earned him the notoriety of successfully crossing over to the genre.

Ray Charles’s Wife

Throughout his career, Ray Charles was widely regarded as a womanizer who had affairs with many women. Some of these affairs occurred while he was married, while others were during his single days.

Charles married twice in his life, the first being to Eileen Williams which only lasted about a year and did not result in any children. His second marriage, which lasted for just over 20 years, was to Della Beatrice Howard Robinson.

His second marriage resulted in the birth of three sons but ended due in part to his addiction to heroin, and his womanizer ways. It was reported that Ray Charles had many affairs over the 20 years he was married to Della.

Although not married, his partner at the time of his death was Norma Pinella who was his longtime girlfriend.

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 and is in the Public Domain.

Ray Charles’s Children

Over his lengthy career, Ray Charles became the father of twelve children, three from his previous marriage to Della Beatrice Howard Robinson before their divorce. His other children were the result of both extra-marital affairs and other relationships along the way.

Before his marriage to Della Robinson, Ray Charles had an affair with Louise Flowers, which resulted in the birth of his first child in 1949, a daughter, Evelyn Robinson.

Check out the list of Ray Charles’s children alongside the mothers here:

  • Evelyn Robinson, 1949 (Louise Flowers)
  • Ray Charles Robinson, Jr, 1955 (Della Robinson)
  • David Robinson, 1958 (Della Robinson)
  • Charles Wayne Hendricks, 1959 (Margie Hendricks)
  • Robert Robinson, 1960 (Della Robinson)
  • Renee Robinson, 1961 (Mae Mosely Lyles)
  • Sheila Robinson, 1963 (Sandra Jean Betts)
  • Reatha Butler, 1966 (mother was kept private)
  • Alexandra Bertrand, 1968 (Mary Chantal Bertrand)
  • Vincent Kotchounian, 1977 (Arlette Kotchounian)
  • Robyn Moffet, 1978 (Gloria Moffet)
  • Ryan Corey Robinson den Bok, 1987 (Mary Anne den Bok)

At the time of his death, it was reported that Charles left each of his children about half a million dollars each. Although they all contested the will, Charles left the remainder of his estate to the Ray Charles Foundation.


The bottom line when it comes to Ray Charles’ net worth and life is that he often lived his life on his terms. This meant that he sang the songs he wanted to sing even though they crossed genres. He became one of the most iconic and influential musicians of all time which resulted in quite a bit of revenue over the years which went to his children at his passing. 

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Written by Hope Davis

Long-time music lover Hope became a full-time writer in 2020 after being laid off from her regular job due to COVID-19. She now spends her time traveling the world to see her favorite bands while writing about them!


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