Several events are being held to honor the life and legacy of Ray Charles in this year that marks the 80th anniversary of his birth on Sept. 23, 1930.
1. RayCharles.com has relaunched. Enhanced by links to social networks like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, the renovated site now offers news stories, updates on forthcoming releases and special events, historical facts, discographies, contests and official merchandise.
2. On April 6, Concord Records released “Genius + Soul = Jazz,” a deluxe two-CD set that borrows its title from Charles’ groundbreaking 1961 album. The new set combines digitally remastered versions of its seminal namesake plus Charles’ three additional jazz albums: “My Kind of Jazz,” “Jazz Number II” and “My Kind of Jazz Part 3.”
3. In September, the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center will open on the campus of Morehouse University in Atlanta.
4. Also this fall, the Ray Charles Memorial Library is due to open. The library will occupy the first floor of the RPM International building in Los Angeles where Charles had worked and recorded since 1965.
5. The Biography Channel this fall will air a new two-hour, prime-time Charles documentary, produced by Tremolo Productions, headed by Morgan Neville. Neville’s previous productions include the film “Johnny Cash’s America” and the documentary “Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story.” The film will feature new music through Concord Music Group, which now handles Charles’ catalog. “His catalog was so broad that people think they’ve heard everything, but they haven’t,” Ray Charles Foundation president Valerie Ervin says. “We have a minimum of 300 songs we’ve come across and hope to debut the first single in the documentary.”
6. Previews of “Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Musical” begin Oct. 8 in New York. The Broadway production will feature some of Charles’ most popular hits, including “Georgia on My Mind,” “I’ve Got a Woman” and “Unchain My Heart.” With a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and direction by Sheldon Epps, the musical is being presented by Stuart Benjamin, who produced the award-winning biopic “Ray.” The production opens Nov. 7.