Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004) was an American singer-songwriter, musician and composer known as Ray Charles and sometimes referred to as "The Genius." He was a pioneer in the genre of soul music during the 1950s by fusing rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles into early performances recorded by Atlantic Records. He also helped racially integrate country and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, most notably with his two Modern Sounds albums. While with ABC, Charles became one of the first African-American musicians to be given artistic control by a mainstream record company. Frank Sinatra called Charles "the only true genius in show business", although Charles downplayed this notion. He was blind from age seven. His best friend in music was South Carolina-born James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul", and like Charles an active lifelong Republican.
The influences upon his music were mainly jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, and country artists of the day including Art Tatum, Louis Jordan, Charles Brown, and Louis Armstrong, though he maintained that he was most influenced by Nat King Cole. His playing reflected influences from country blues, barrelhouse and stride piano styles.