Ray Charles is set to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame alongside the rest of the class of 2022.
Widely known for his genre-redefining contributions to R&B, soul, and gospel music, Charles was also responsible for breaking down color barriers in country music at the height of the Civil Rights era. His two-volume Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music from 1962, reissued back in 2019, was a personal passion project that ended up becoming a landmark release for both country at large and Charles individually.
The album went on to become one of the best selling country LPs of the time, demonstrating the genre’s commercial potential. The single “I Can’t Stop Loving You” not only spent five weeks atop the Billboard 100, but is often considered the definitive version of the standard. The material’s blend of pop and big-band soul “kicked country music forward 50 years,” as Willie Nelson once put it. Modern Sounds is to this day considered one of — if not the — best records in Charles’ catalog, with its influence on country undeniably present in today’s hits.
In a statement addressing the legend’s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ray Charles Foundation president Valerie Ervin said,
“Needless to say, Ray Charles loved country music. As a matter of fact, he risked a lot in 1962 when he decided to record Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. I cannot express enough how happy and honored Ray Charles would be at this moment in time, as I am for him. Congratulations to all the fellow inductees and as Ray Charles would say, ‘That is so nice.’”
Charles will be inducted in a ceremony next year alongside Grammy-winning mother-daughter duo The Judds, as well as drummer Eddie Bayers and pedal steel guitarist Pete Drake, who tied in the category of recording musician.