“I’ve Got a Woman,” No. 1 in 1955, was the first time Ray Charles changed music. Four years later, when he negotiated for rights to his master recordings and publishing while switching to ABC Paramount, he changed it on the business front. And when he unveiled his uniquely passionate version of “America the Beautiful,” Charles came mighty close to creating a new national anthem.
Charles was the first performer to bring the music of the church into the secular world. He altered America’s R&B tastes, driving away from blues-based material and ballads and toward the music that became the roots of rock ‘n’ roll. He turned country music on its head, too, not to mention creating a landmark with Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia on My Mind.”