This Day in 1986: Ray Charles is Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
31 years ago today, the man who gave us “Hit the Road, Jack” and “What’d I Say” was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Trying to nail Ray Charles down to a single musical genre is a waste of time, given that he’s been known to dabble in R&B, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll, but as he’s considered by many to be one of those responsible for defining the rock ‘n’ roll sound in the 1950s, it only stands to reason that he’d be an early inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
When it was Charles’ turn to be inducted, the first person to step up to the podium was – appropriately enough – Ahmet Ertegun, head of Atlantic Records, who helped give Charles his start. As he acknowledged in his remarks, he was introduced to Charles through his song “Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand,” fell in love with his music immediately, and had him signed to Atlantic in short order. By their third session together, said Ertegun, “he was not only teaching me about music, but he was showing me how to make records.”
After a few more remarks of praise, Ertegun introduced “my honorary Turkish brother, Quincy Jones,” who continued the kind words toward Charles, describing him as “a man that’s been my friend – who’s also been a genius – for 38 years, a man who’s filled my head and heart with soul or rock ‘n’ roll, whatever you want to call it.” From there, Jones introduced the man of the hour to the stage, telling Charles, “I’m gonna tell it like it is.” Charles’ instant response: “Well, not all of it!”
You can see Jones’s full remarks in the above video, but when Charles took the microphone himself, he was slightly more succinct, saying that he appreciated what his old friends had said about him, acknowledging that he was “more than proud, very touched, and overwhelmed” by his induction, and said, “Had it not been for the people who listened to my music and loved it, this could never have happened to me, so I just want to take this moment to say thank you very much.”
In closing, we’d be remiss if we didn’t also offer up another notable appearance by Charles at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: when he gave a little bit back and inducted Billy Joel into the Hall.