Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Ray Charles Memorial Library in Los Angeles Goes Public In Near Future

The Ray Charles Memorial Library, officially opened in September 2010 on the 80th anniversary of Ray Charles’ birth. Initially, it was open to school groups only, but the general public will be welcome to visit beginning later this year. The library/museum is located on the ground floor of the Los Angeles building Charles designed for his offices and recording studio.

The library/museum is operated by the nonprofit Ray Charles Foundation that Charles established in 1986 to focus on needy and underprivileged children, especially those with hearing difficulties. Charles, who was blind, considered deafness a greater handicap.

Seeking to fill a void left by the decline of arts and music programs in public schools, the museum's curators hope the exhibits will open up a world of possibilities to youngsters after they see how the musical icon transcended socioeconomic, musical, and racial boundaries during a career spanning more than 50 years.

The library/museum contains seven galleries on the ground floor of a two-story building that Charles had built in 1964. It is located in the historically designated RPM International building at 2107 West Washington Boulevard in the Harvard Heights neighborhood. It houses his offices, wardrobe, an archive of master tapes and memorabilia, and his recording studio. The first album recorded here, in 1965, was "Country & Western Meets Rhythm and Blues."

Alongside educational interactive displays and plenty of film and audio footage, the museum contains mementos such as costumes, gold records, a selection of Charles' dark glasses and one of the customized chess boards on which he regularly defeated his sighted opponents.

Charles began the Ray Charles Foundation with a $50 million grant, and its assets currently are valued at close to $100 million, according to a foundation spokesperson. His entire estate was turned over to the foundation after he died of cancer in 2004, at age 73.

The foundation's investments have done well and now makes grants averaging about $5 million annually to a broad range of educational institutions and programs. The foundation has a licensing arm, the Ray Charles Marketing Group, which handles Charles' post-1960 recordings. Through its joint venture with Concord Records, it recently released an album of previously archived recordings, "Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters," Among the tracks is a duet with Johnny Cash of Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me, Lord?"

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James Weaver
GolfWiz Blog
Senior Travel Writer

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