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Postal News: USPS inducts Ray Charles into Music Icons series

October 23, 2013
By KATHLEEN SWANSON , Lehigh Acres Citizen

On what would have been his 83rd birthday, the "father of soul," Ray Charles, returned to two "stamping ovations" on Sept. 23 as the latest inductee into the United States Postal Service's Music Icons Forever stamp Series.

Chaka Khan performed at the Los Angeles first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony and Ashanti highlighted the Atlanta event.

The limited-edition stamp, as well as Ray Charles Forever, a deluxe CD collection featuring the unreleased recording of "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and the exclusive bonus track "I Didn't Know What Time it Was" is available at post offices nationwide, as well as online at:, stamps and at (800) STAMP-24.

The stamp features an image of Charles taken later in his career by photographer Yves Carrre. The photograph belongs to Mephisto Jazz, represented worldwide by the Dalle agency.

The stamp sheet was designed to evoke the appearance of a 45 rpm single peeking out of a record sleeve above the stamps themselves. On the reverse side, the sheet includes a larger version of the photograph featured on the stamp as well as the logo for the Music Icons series.

Art director Ethel Kessler worked on the stamp pane with designer Neal Ashby.

Born Sept. 23, 1930, in Albany, Ga., Ray Charles Robinson was raised in the small town of Greenville, Fla., where a local boogie-woogie pianist gave him his first piano lessons.

At the age of five, Charles began to go blind. His right eye was surgically removed.

He learned to read Braille and was given lessons in classical piano and clarinet. He also taught himself to play saxophone while continuing to listen to a mix of jazz, blues and country music.

After his mother died in 1945, Charles left school and went to work in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa as a professional musician.

In 1948, he went to Seattle, Wash., and formed a group known as the McSon Trio. Charles signed with Atlantic Records in 1952, where he had his first national hit, "I've Got a Woman," in 1955.

Charles assembled his own band, touring along with his quartet of backup vocalists, the Cookies, later known as the "Raeletts." In 1959, Charles scored a major hit on both the rhythm and blues and pop charts with "What'd I Say?"

But Charles could not be defined or contained by one musical style. He appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival and recorded a successful album with Milt Jackson of the Modern Jazz Quartet.

In 1959, when offered financial incentives, Charles left Atlantic for ABC-Paramount. His growing audience continued to expand with two number one hits, "Georgia On My Mind" (1960) and "Hit the Road Jack" (1961).

Looking back over his career, there seemed to be little Charles couldn't do. His work spanned almost the entire breadth of American music and brought him 17 Grammy awards; the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986; an award for lifetime achievement in 1987; the National Medal of Arts in 1993; and, his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Many of this year's other stamps may be viewed on Facebook at:?, via Twitter at @USPSstamps or at:

Kathleen Swanson is a spokeswoman for U.S. Postal Service.



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