7 Inspiring Facts About Ray Charles

When you think about iconic artists in music history, Ray Charles is a name that instantly comes to mind. Throughout his career and personal life, Ray overcame many obstacles, but became an important figure who left a lasting impact on the world. 

From the loss of his sight at a young age, to fighting for what he believed in during the civil rights movement, to conquering substance abuse, Ray possessed the passion, the talent, and the heart to achieve so much.

As we celebrate all of the amazing visionaries and their contributions to help make a difference in the world throughout Black History Month, we are remembering Ray Charles and his incredible career. Read on to learn 7 inspiring facts about "The Genius of Soul" below.

1. Despite losing his sight at the young age of 7 due to glaucoma, Ray learned composition, classical piano, organ, trumpet, alto sax, and clarinet while in school. He also learned to read and write music in Braille.

2. At age 18, he moved to Seattle with only $500 and formed his own band.

3. He refused to play a venue in Augusta, Georgia, after learning it was segregated, and didn't play another show in Augusta until it was desegregated. 

In 1961 (shortly after releasing his hit song "Georgia on My Mind"), Ray cancelled a show at Bell Auditorium in Augusta, Georgia, after learning that the venue is segregated with a whites only dance floor, and upper balcony sectioned off for blacks. The venue went after Ray for breach of contract, fining him for canceling the performance ... and Ray paid it. He didn't to play another show in Augusta until the venue was desegregated.

4. Ray could not only play chess, but he could play chess well, and once beat Willie Nelson three times in a row ... in the dark!

5. Over the course of his nearly 60 year career, Ray has one 12 Grammy Awards, received the Presidential Medal for the Arts, and was named a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress.

6. Ray's "Georgia on My Mind" was made the official state song of his native Georgia.

7. Being a pioneer of soul music, and his ability to blend different genres together, he is known as "The Genius of Soul."

Celebrate Ray Charles and his incredible contribution to music by listening to iHeartRadio's Thumbs Up: Ray Charles playlist:

Photos: Getty Images