How Ray Charles Continues To Inspire Dreamers of Today

Ray Charles was one of the most innovative and inspiring musicians of the twentieth century. In a time when segregation was still the norm and being blind was enough to pass you off as a ‘cripple’, Charles persevered by overcoming adversity against all odds, with a little help from his friends, of course.

This September 23rd will mark what would have been Ray Charles’ 85th birthday. He passed away in 2004, but his life and music continues to reach and inspire young people of today to pursue their dreams in the face of adversity and doubt.

Don’t Make Excuses

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Ray Charles was his ability and his willingness to overcome his position and status in life. Ray grew up poor in Florida with his mother and younger brother, George. George drowned when he was still very young, leaving Ray with only his mother, whom he recognized lived a hard life with very little money and even fewer resources. He vowed then and there to make something of himself and to never find himself in his mother’s position.

Ray could have easily allowed fear and doubt to stifle his efforts of becoming a well-rounded and prosperous adult, but he never let his handicap stop him from achieving his dreams. He took an interest in music at a very young age, and despite his already oncoming blindness, went on to become one of the most talented pianists in popular music. Don’t look for excuses that will prevent you from achieving your goals; instead try to recognize an excuse as an obstacle that you must find a way to get around.


Ray Charles was obviously no stranger to struggle and hardship. He was completely blind by the time he was seven years old and had lost his brother and mother before he was fourteen. But rather than allow himself to be hindered by his hardships and handicap, Charles used his experiences to pioneer entirely new genres of music, combining Gospel music with Rhythm & Blues and experimenting with other genres like Jazz, Country, and even Rock & Roll.

Ray may have been blind, but he could see more, perhaps, than anyone in the scope of human potential. Like Helen Keller, Stevie Wonder, and Marlee Matlin, he stands as a shining example of what the human spirit can accomplish despite physical handicaps or social norms. His life and career continues to influence people around the world to live up to their dreams and achieve their full potential.

Be Innovative

What makes a great musician, or even a great businessman, is a person’s ability to be innovative in their craft. Ray Charles was no exception. His idea to combine Gospel music with that of R&B may have set off a storm of controversy among religious groups, but it simultaneously opened the door for an entirely new wave of Gospel and Soul musicians in popular music, including Aretha Franklin and Sharon Jones.

Had Ray Charles allowed such accusations as blasphemy and religious damnation to affect his decisions, we may very well have been deprived of an entire generation of performers and songwriters. Do not let people’s opinions or doubt get in the way of your dreams. People will always try to put you down and attempt to instill doubt in your accomplishments, but you should not allow this to stop you from achieving your goals. Instead, use their animosity as a motivational tool to prove people that doubt you wrong, and your resilience will only strengthen your desire to succeed.

Be Willing To Accept Help

We all need help from time to time as we journey down the path to success. Ray may have been a very independent person, but he still needed help from those around him. He struggled, not only with his own handicap, but also against the racial segregation of the south and an ever-increasing drug addiction that would last from his early to middle career years.

Despite such hardship, Ray persevered again with the help of his wife and family, and friends like Quincy Jones and Ahmet Ertegun. He also checked himself into rehabilitation when his drug habits became excessive and began to affect his recording career. These experiences set off a new wave of purpose and creativity for Ray as he poured his heart and soul into new music and became a more prominent pubic figure for Civil Rights and the entertainment industry.

Stand Up For Your Beliefs

When Ray Charles was first coming onto the music scene, the United States was very different than it is today. The Civil Rights Movement wouldn’t come into full swing into much later in his career and the southern United States, where Charles was from, was still segregated with racial tensions running high.

Ray famously decided not to play to a segregated audience at a ballroom in Augusta, Georgia in the early 1960s and was sued for breach of contract by the show’s promoter. He also became an avid supporter of Martin Luther King Jr. when the Civil Rights Movement came to full swing. Ray was not afraid to let his childhood values shine through in his music and career; he never forgot his roots and as his popularity grew, so did his humanitarian efforts and charitable work. His unrelenting passion for the human spirit and his love of music continues to inspire musicians and individuals around the world to never give up in pursuing their dreams.