COUNTRY IN HIS SOUL

Ray Charles was an R&B superstar. But when he died, country music lost a good friend as well.

When the man known as "The Genius of Soul" wanted to go country, some said he was crazy.

After hitting it big with such now-classics of pop and R&B as "Hit the Road Jack" and "Georgia on My Mind," Ray Charles surprised many in 1962 by recording Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music - an album that featured country songs from the likes of Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold and The Everly Brothers.

His record label thought it was a mistake, but Ray - who died on June 10 at age 73 - proved them wrong. His recording of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" brought him a No. 1 pop hit, and both the single and the album earned gold records. In the process, he helped millions of listeners discover the beauty of a country song.

"As far as I'm concerned," says Travis Tritt, "he did more to open doors in the 1960s for a whole new audience of country music listeners than anybody since him or before."

Pick up this week'sCountry Weekly to read more about Ray Charles and his involvement in country music!

-- Story by Tom Roland

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