There are not many musicians who were worthy of the title ‘genius’, but pianist, arranger, composer and singer Ray Charles was one of them. Born in poverty, he lost his sight at the age of seven and was an orphan by the age of 15. A gifted pianist, he formed his own band when he moved to Seattle. After two hits on the Swingtime Records label, he was signed by Ahmet Ertegun to Atlantic Records in 1952 and began a long run of classic R&B singles that established him as a major musical force. He left Atlantic for even greater success with ABC Records in 1959. His crossover to a white audience made Charles a rich man, and his later albums favoured MOR and smooth country pop. He settled into a dignified old age, highly respected, much-loved and still capable of fiery live shows and the odd flash of genius on record. Ray Charles died of acute liver disease in June 2004. Shortly before his death he was able to work with Jamie Foxx on the superb biographical movie Ray (2004). His phenomenal influence over many genres of popular music is inestimable.