For singer Ray Charles, America was Beautiful. Of all the hundreds of songs he recorded, everyone — from presidents to captains of industry, celebrated athletes, actors, military generals and just plain folks — remembers Ray Charles' unique rendition of America The Beautiful.
Ray Charles had his first hit on Nov. 11, 1957, but one of his most memorable is America The Beautiful.
While he traveled the world, playing at the biggest venues and festivals on the planet, Charles always loved coming home to America.
In summer 2002, he commemorated the 30th anniversary of his historic version of America The Beautiful, perhaps his best remembered and most iconic performance.
Written in 1893 by Wellesley college professor, Katharine Lee Bates, America The Beautiful was conceived as a poem, not a song.
Today, it’s commonly accompanied by the music of Samuel Ward’s Materna.
Charles has truly popularized the song over the past three decades, following its debut on his ground-breaking album, “A Message from the People.”
Quincy Jones arranged the music.
In 1976, Charles’ version was used at the Winter Olympics to accompany the U.S. ice skaters.
Shortly thereafter, the song soared on the charts.
Since then, Charles sang it over and over at hundreds of performances yearly, always by popular demand.
It was one of his most requested songs, first introduced into his stage show at Carnegie Hall with the unfurling of a giant American flag.
He sang it at both the World Series and the Super Bowl.
Asked about his interpretation, Charles said: “I put a littl country backbeat on it and turned it my way.”
During his 58-year show business career, Charles won dozens of awards, 17 Grammy® Awards, 3 Image Awards, the Trumpet Award in 2001, the Kennedy Center Honors, the Horatio Alger Award, and the 1998 Polar Music Prize presented by the King of Sweden.