He brought a soulful sound to country music, pop standards, and a rendition of "America the Beautiful" that Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes called the "definitive version of the song, an American anthem. In 1965, Charles was arrested for possession of heroin, a drug to which he had been addicted for nearly 20 years. It was his third arrest for the offence, but he avoided jail time after kicking the habit in a clinic in Los Angeles. He spent a year on parole in 1966.
He left school when he was 15 to pursue his dream of music. Ray Charles was responsible for the creation of soul music, which combines blues, rhythm, gospel and jazz. Charles not only helped eliminate many racial barriers since he was one of the earliest black musicians to be played on the radio. Ray Charles Live ShowHe pioneered the genre of soul music during the 1950s by combining rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles into the music he recorded for Atlantic Records. He also contributed to the racial integration of country and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, most notably with his two Modern Sounds albums. While he was with ABC, Charles became one of the first African-American musicians to be granted artistic control by a mainstream record company.
Charles was blind from the age of seven. Charles cited Nat King Cole as a primary influence, but his music was also influenced by jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, and country artists of the day, including Art Tatum, Louis Jordan, Charles Brown and Louis Armstrong. Charles' playing reflected influences from country blues, barrelhouse and stride piano styles. He had strong ties to Quincy Jones, who often cared for him and showed him the ropes of the "music club industry." Frank Sinatra called him "the only true genius in show business", although Charles downplayed this notion. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Charles at number ten on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", and number two on their November 2008 list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time". Billy Joelobserved: "This may sound like sacrilege, but I think Ray Charles was more important than Elvis Presley".