3. Otis Redding

Otis Redding, singerOtis Ray Redding  Jr. is one of the most important figures in the history of R & B and Soul music. He recorded his first single in 1962, “These Arms Of Mine”  being soon followed by a Stax Records production album.

Sad accident

Although initially, listeners and fans of Otis were predominantly African-American, the young singer came very soon to attract the white audiences. In 1967, Otis used his own Beechcraft airplane to reach H18 concerts. In December 1967, the singer and his team were to fly from Cleveland to Madison, Wisconson.

Although the weather was very bad and had been warned not to take off, Otis decided to risk. Six miles away from its destination, the pilot announced that he will be forced to make an emergency landing. The plane crashed immediately after this transmission and, even today, the cause of the accident is unknown. The only survivor was Ben Cauley, a member of the band of instrumentalists. He woke up in the water but couldn’t  swim enough  to help his friends.

Otis Redding’s death devastated the whole world. Redding has received numerous posthumous honors, including a Grammy for career and a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

2. Aretha Franklin

singer, Aretha FranklinAretha Franklin, born on March 25, 1942 in Detroit, is a singer, songwriter and American pianist. Although known for her soulful songs she is called the “Queen of Soul”, also singing jazz, blues, R & B, gospel and rock music.


Rolling Stone ranked her first among the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” and  ninth in the top “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. She won 18 Grammy Awards and has 20 singles ranking number one in the Hot R & B / Hip-Hop Songs and two first places on the Billboard Hot 100: “Respect” (1967) and “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” (1987) in a duet with George Michael.

Since 1961, she had a total of 45 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Between 1967 and 1982 she had 10 number one R & B albums, more than any other female artist. In 1987, she became the first woman artist who was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. According to Time magazine, Aretha Franklin is one of the most influential women of the twentieth century.


She was born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, and when she was seven she moves with her family in Detroit. She was born with music running through her blood and  wanted to sing in the church choir from the beginning. Her first official record was when he was 14 years old. Shortly after this step, the young Aretha signed with Columbia Records.

At 15, she became a mother to a baby boy named Clarence. This is when the teenager needs to make a choice: to be a full time mother or to continue her musical career. She chose the latter, her grandmother helping her to raise the child. She remained with Columbia Records until 1967, when she moved to Atlantic Records, and the results were spectacular, maybe because she was offered artistic freedom.

1. Ray Charles

Ray Charles, soul singer“Soul is a way of life but it is always the hardest way.” – Ray Charles.

If life is a sum of episodes, the life of Ray Charles should be seen as a sum of ups and downs that have happened behind a long and successful musical career. Ray Charles is the quintessence of fighting, suffering and darkness, a combination of multiple musical styles: jazz, rythm & blues, rock and roll, gospel, country and western.

Personal life and career

Charles Ray’s story is that of a small child who is blindly raised by a single mother in a poor environment in the southern segregationist America, but manages to break the social barriers and change the course of the American music history. It’s a story about what a man can do with his fate, namely that he may change it by fighting. Charles’s career begins in adolescence, when a young black blind man takes the bus and goes where he knows, in Florida, the heart of jazz.

He stays for a while in Seattle, trying to find his own way and to impose himself as an artist that deserves fair treatment. He then is discovered by Atlantic Records and the path to follow is an upward path. On the other side, however, his personal life is a mixture of extramarital affairs and drug addiction. Generations of Americans grew not only with the music of Ray Charles, that revolutionized every music genre from jazz to country, but also knew very few details of his life.

young singer Ray CharlesRay Charles was not only a pianist and an exceptionally unique composer. He was also an absolutely surprising and  astute businessman. He took control of his career and achieved certain contractual conditions that were unprecedented in the music world. He opened the way to other musicians as well, who also found the important material advantages in relation to the record.

Ray Charles was a man of contradictions. He lived in simplicity and modesty, as a black man that came from a poor backgrounds. He didn’t raise any barriers or labeling to his songs a mixture of so many genres, breaking the boundaries between jazz, R & B, country and gospel, the result being something original, exuberant and exciting. It was said of him that he could just as easily make you dance and break your heart, could evoke joy and disappointment, or both in the same song. For Ray Charles life was such a mixture of grief, sorrow, excitement, beauty and desire for salvation.

Ray Charles was born on September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia. It was a time of recession back then. His whole name was Ray Charles Robinson and he fell in love with music at a very early age. Before he was five he began to play the piano. He witnessed the drowning of his younger brother for who’s death he blamed himself. Soon, glaucoma and, perhaps, the trauma of witnessing his brother’s death will lead to early blindness.

At 7 he was completely blind and his mother, a tough but devoted woman, has to learn to live with a blind child. He never used a cane or any other aid, but has cut his way in a single life. With the hope of ensuring a better existence for Ray, his mother sent him 250 miles away from home, at a school for the blind, where he learned to read music in Braille. There he studied several instruments and approached jazz, swing, gospel, blues and country.


Throughout his career he won 12 Grammys and the 1988 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The 76 singles released were among the most sold and in total recording over 75 albums. His name is now in the Rock and Blues Hall of Fame and he is the NAACP Image. He received a National Medal for his career arts. He never forgot his roots and overcomed all obstacles, therefore donating over $25 million to charity for blacks, education and arts. He died on June 10, 2004 at the age of 73 years.

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