It was not only the music scene that was pigeon-holed. Many purchasers of his country hits had no knowledge of the raucous R&B he had been recording for Atlantic. I shocked a friend’s mother, who loved ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’, by playing her ‘What’d I Say’ and she was mortified, telling me to take off this horrible black music.
As I was reading the book, I was enthralled by the chaos of Ray Charles’ private life as one affair followed another. On page 282, Mike Evans tells us that Ray fathered 12 children and with the help of the index, I resolved to find them. This turned out to be more complicated than a Sudoku as the index is not that accommodating and I only found eight:
Evelyn (born 1954) to a girlfriend, Louise Mitchell
Ray Charles Robinson Jr (born 1955) to his second wife Della
David Robinson (born 1958) to Della
Charles Wayne (born 1959) to Margie Hendricks of the Raelettes
Raenee (born 1961) to Mae Mosely, another Raelette who let Ray…
Robert (born 1961) to Della
Sheila (born 1963) to a neighbour Sandra Jean Betts, and
Vincent (born c.1968) to songwriter Arlette Kotchounian
If Mike Evans has left out four children, then that is a serious omission (or as he would write a serious ‘non-inclusion’). If they are in the text, then the index is at fault. It could be that I’ve missed them, but I have spent an hour trying to find them.
Two aspects relating to his children intrigue me. Firstly, do any of these children carry his musical genes? The book doesn’t tell me, but Rev. Robert Robinson presided at his funeral, and Ray Charles Jr was involved with the bio-pic with Jamie Foxx. With so many children, there must be some musical talent.
We are told that Raenee (what a revealing name) was born with glaucoma and that Ray paid the medical bills. Early on there is a reference to Ray Charles’ blindness being the result of congenital glaucoma. On the other hand, Ray’s blindness came after seeing his brother die in an accident when he was five. What exactly was the cause of his blindness? I would have welcomed some authoritative medical information. If it is congenital, surely more than one of his children would have this condition and surely one of his parents would have also been affected.