I chose Ray Charles because I was interested in more than just his music
and I wanted to know more about how he became disabled. I know there are movies
or books about him but it’s a different learning process when you can write
about the person. Charles music is what I was raised on and I appreciate him
for how he never gave up. Glaucoma also plays a huge role in my ethnicity and
to prevent things you have to research it. I want to be educated on more than
just the normal disabilities. Choosing him as a person to write about has really
opened my eyes how eye doctors appointments are just as important as OB/GYN
appointments and dentist appointments.
Charles disability came at the age of four or five at the sight of losing his
brother and he was completely blind at the age of seven, his disability was
called glaucoma. Charles was born in a time when visual impairment and being
blind was less common in the US. Southern African Americans was not giving the
opportunity to have health care because of the Jim Crow laws and practices.
People thought that Ray Charles was born blind but he just slowly started to
lose his sight at a certain age. Ray’s mother had no patience for sympathy but
his hometown Greenville, Florida pitied him a lot. Charles remember that, “When I got to feeling sorry for myself, she’d get
tough and say, ‘You’re blind, you ain’t dumb; you lost your sight, not your
mind.’ And she’d make me. . .see I could do almost anything anyone else could
do.” Ray Charles right eye was removed due to him being in pain in the year of
1937. Unbelievably Ray Charles refused to use the red/white cane to get around
like other blind or visually impaired people. In 1986, incorporated the
Robinson Foundation for Hearing Disorders after experiencing chronic troubles
leading to temporary hearing loss.
Ray Charles did not have much accommodations with his disability because he
was too proud to ask for help. He tried to break his self away from the
traditional African American singers that were blind before him. Charles affirmed, “Now it’s important
that you understand that there were three things I never wanted to own when I
was a kid: a dog, a cane, and a guitar. In my brain, they each meant blindness
and helplessness.” Ray was even married a couple of times and had a
dozen of kinds with many women. Between the years of 1961 to 1964 he became
addicted to heroin and marijuana, it almost destroyed his career. The good part
is he checked himself into rehab and never did drugs again. He went through
life normally as in other human but he just had a disability.
The disability that Ray Charles had
was glaucoma and it is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans. It
progresses faster and a lot early in the black community and some people do not
get regular eye exams so they are not educated about the disability. Glaucoma
has no symptoms and it is called by eye doctors “silent thief of sight.” It is
usually age-related and so doctors try to monitor the situation as best as
possible. Normally, in African Americans it is more difficult to treat and more
severe at the time of diagnosis.
Mr. Charles was 15 years old when
his mother died, and he toured on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” in the South for a
year. While on tour, he became addicted to heroin. When he turned 16 years old,
he moved to Seattle where he met a well-known Quincy Jones, the younger him,
someone he would keep around for the rest of his life. Charles worked was a lot
like Charles Brown and Nat King Cole, and he later developed a distinctive
sound. His first single “Confession Blues” was released in 1949 and the song
did well on the charts. Ray Charles was no longer a songwriter/singer that
sounded a lot like Nat King Cole after his classic “I Got a Woman” was
released; he sounded more like gospel and R&B mixed. He was a great
entertainer by the late 1950s. Charles was recognized about his work right
alongside of some other great entertainers such as Elvis Presley, James Brown,
Buddy Holly, and Sam Cooke.
Charles Robinson, known to many as Ray Charles “The Great” was born on
September 23, 1930 in a small town of Albany, Georgia. He was a pianist,
songwriter, and singer. Ray’s mother was a sharecropper and his father was a
mechanic, when Ray was little they moved to Greenville, Florida. In Mr. Charles
early years of life he was a witness of his little brother drowning to death.
In some type of way, Charles began to lose his eyesight right after the death
of his little brother. By the age of seven years old, he was blind; his mother
put him in a state-sponsored school called the Florida School for the Deaf and
the Blind in St. Augustine, Florida. That school taught him to write and
arrange music with Braille, and read. Charles learned how to play piano, sax,
organ, trumpet, and clarinet. He was just an all-around music mogul.