“Strangely enough, losing my sight wasn’t quite as bad as you’d think,” wrote Ray Charles in his autobiography, “because my mom conditioned me for the day that I would be totally blind. When the doctors told her that I was gradually losing my sight, and that I wasn’t going to get any better, she started helping me deal with it by showing me how to get around, how to find things. That made it a little bit easier to deal with.”
Being unable to see didn’t bother Ray nearly as much as the thought of not hearing: “Music has always been something extraordinary in my life. It’s always been something that completely captured my attention — from the time I was three.”
Unable to imagine a world without sound, in the late ’80s he created the Ray Charles Robinson Foundation for Hearing Disorders. Through laboratory work in auditory physiology and cochlear implants, technology in hearing devices continues to advance, providing more implants to the deaf, and bringing the world of sound one step closer.
“When I’m with a child who hears for the first time, there’s nothing like that,” said Ray. Not surprising for one who equated music to breathing. “I have to have it. It’s part of me.”
Although Ray completely lost his sight by the age of seven, he went on to become one of the most influential musician-singer-songwriters of rhythm and blues with a successful career spanning over five decades.
Charles donated money to Albany State GA University to build a theatre in his mother’s name.
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