Ray Charles was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during a star-studded medallion ceremony on May 1. Ray joined fellow 2022 inductees The Judds, Pete Drake, and Eddie Bayers. The War and Treaty (“You Don’t Know Me”), Bettye LaVette (“I Can’t Stop Loving You”), and Garth Brooks (“Seven Spanish Angels”) honored Ray Charles with musical tributes.
It was a long time coming for the Ray, who died in 2004 at age 73. Of course, Ray Charles needs no introduction. The man is a legend in every genre he tackled during his 50-plus-year career, including R&B, jazz, gospel, pop, and, yes, country music. It feels good that Ray finally entered the Country Music Hall of Fame in the Veterans Era category.
Ray was influenced by a number of country stars as a youth, including Roy Acuff, Eddy Arnold, Hank Williams, Hank Snow, and Ernest Tubb. Even more so, Ray’s music influenced a number of future Country Music Hall of Fame members, including Elvis Presley, Buck Owens, Willie Nelson, and Ronnie Milsap, who officially presented Ray’s medallion during the Hall of Fame ceremony.
Ray Charles Goes Country
Firmly established as a pop/R&B star, Ray made a peculiar move by label standards in 1962: he recorded Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. The album featured 12 country songs—including “Bye Bye Love,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” and “You Don’t Know Me”—recorded as big-band ballads. Ray’s cover of Don Gibson’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You” reached No. 1 on the pop charts. With one album, Ray’s first to reach No. 1, he had single-handedly expanded country music’s reach.
And when people ask me about the best country albums of all time, at least in my opinion, I always include Ray’s Modern Sounds in my list. Then again, my list is long, but here are 5 outstanding starter albums.
Of course, Ray’s foray into country music didn’t stop there. More albums followed, including 1962’s Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music Vol. 2, 1965’s Country and Western Meets Rhythm and Blues, and 1970’s Love Country Style, among others.
Angels Among Us
In 1984, Ray released, Friendship. The 10-song album featured Ray dueting with country’s biggest stars, including Johnny Cash, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and more. The album hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart.
In addition, Ray’s collaboration with Willie Nelson on “Seven Spanish Angels” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. It is, perhaps, Ray’s most well-known country standard. So it seemed fitting that Garth Brooks honored Ray Charles by treating attendees at the Hall of Fame ceremony to a soaring rendition of “Seven Spanish Angels.” In true Garth form, his energy couldn’t be contained as he roamed around the stage during the tribute.
Check out Garth’s performance below.
From Death Valley on Saturday to the Valley of the Gun on Sunday.@GarthBrooks honors Ray Charles with “Seven Spanish Angels” performance at last night’s @CountryMusicHoF induction ceremony. pic.twitter.com/qbxXTgGlUY— Outsider (@outsider) May 2, 2022