Primary Wave Grabs Majority Stake in Ray Charles' Pre-1964 Catalog in Multi-Million Dollar Deal

Ray Charles
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Ray Charles

Primary Wave Music Publishing has finalized a multi-million dollar deal to acquire a majority stake in the pre-1964 music publishing catalog of soul music pioneer Ray Charles.

Terms of the agreement with Charles' heirs include a majority of the publishing and writer's share, as well as all administration rights, for some of the iconic singer, songwriter and musician's biggest hits, including "What'd I Say," "Ain't That Love," and "I Got A Woman." In turn, Charles' legacy is set to benefit from Primary Wave's publishing infrastructure, which includes digital strategy, licensing and sync opportunities, publicity, branding, and film & television production.

"We are thrilled to welcome Ray Charles into the Primary Wave family and are excited to work with his heirs to help shape the future of his legacy," said Primary Wave IP Investment Management Bill Cisneros.

Added Marc Toberoff of Toberoff & Associates, P.C., who represents Charles' heirs: "Ray Charles was a unique artist genius and Primary Wave is the perfect, creatively proactive company to look after his music and legacy."

The beloved artist known as "The Genius" grew up in Greenville, Fla., and was blinded in childhood due to glaucoma. After studying composition and learning to play several instruments in his adolescence, he moved to Seattle in 1947 to make his living as a Nat "King" Cole-style crooner. After signing to Atlantic Records a few years later, he combined the styles of R&B, gospel and blues to pioneer the soul music genre during the 1950s, and went on to win 17 Grammy Awards.

Charles received the Kennedy Center Honors, a lifetime achievement award which celebrates individuals who have enriched American life through the performing arts, in 1986, and won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award a year later. He died in June 2004 at age 73. His final piece of music, Genius Loves Company, was released two months later, and went on to sell more than 5 million copies, earning five Grammy Awards including album of the year.

Post-1964 songs that are excluded from the deal include a series of 1966 hits like "I Don't Need No Doctor" and "Let's Go Get Stoned," as well as 1967 ballad "Here We Go Again." The artist fell into commercial decline in the 1970s, although he continued to record and collected another Grammy for his 1975 recording of Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City."

Primary Wave's more than 15,000-song catalog includes copyrights from Smokey RobinsonAerosmithDef LeppardHall & Oates and Boy George. Its recent high-profile deals include an agreement to buy 50% of the intellectual property assets of Whitney Houston's estate in May 2019, and a pact in 2018 to purchase 80% of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell's share of Bob Marley's publishing catalog.