Sheila Raye Charles, of Atlanta, sings a medley of her father’s songs during Sunday’s memorial birthday celebration at Ray Charles Plaza. The Ray Charles Music Festival is coming up in October.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Native son and legendary musician Ray Charles was on the minds of many attendees Sunday afternoon during a memorial birthday celebration honoring Charles and featuring his daughter, Sheila Raye Charles.
Ray Charles, born Sept. 23, 1930, would have been 82 years old Sunday. The event, held at Ray Charles Plaza, also served as a kickoff for Albany's Ray Charles Music Festival scheduled for October.
Mayor Dorothy Hubbard issued a proclamation declaring Sept. 23 through Oct. 31 as an ongoing annual celebration to be called Ray's Days. The events during Ray's Days will pay homage to Charles and his music and will include a concert to benefit the American Cancer Society.
After cutting and sharing birthday cake, Sheila Raye Charles entertained the crowd with a medley of her father's greatest hits, including "Hit the Road, Jack," "Unchain My Heart," and "Georgia on My Mind."
"I am grateful to be a part of this and share in his legacy," said Charles. "People are still in awe of him and his accomplishments. I'm a singer and I travel all over the world and no matter whether I'm in the smallest town or largest city, they know Ray Charles."
Albany's Ray Charles Music Festival, organized by Xtrataining Records, Inc., will be held Oct. 27 from noon until 9 p.m. at Charles Sherrod Park at Jackson Street and Highland Avenue. The show will be opened by the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and will feature Sheila Raye Charles as headliner. Other acts will include pop, country and blues.
"I think Albany is doing a wonderful job of supporting my father's legacy," said Charles, who recently relocated from Minnesota to Atlanta. "I love that people come from all over the country and stop by to look at the statue. My father would be so grateful to see what has been done.
"I love that Albany is continuing to keep his memory alive. It is so very important not only because of what he has done for African-Americans but also for musicians of all color and genre. He made a stand in the music industry so that people were able to own their own masters. I'm very proud of him."