With apologies to Chuck D, many African-American heroes are now appearing on United States postage stamps.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member and legendary “Georgia on My Mind” singer Ray Charles now appears posthumously on one of the Post Office’s forever stamps.
The Post Office continues to honor African-American legends and momentous events in black history, including the release last month of a civil rights stamp which followed those of Rosa Parks, tennis legend, Althea Gibson, and others.
The honors arrive more than 20 years after Chuck D, the legendary leader of the rap group, Public Enemy, famously remarked about black icons, “Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamp.” Last year, Public Enemy and Chuck D, whose real name is Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, released an album titled, “Most of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear on No Stamp.”
“No matter how many awards and accolades he received, Ray Charles was genuinely humbled by each and every honor. To him, it meant people anticipated what he loved doing so much, his music,” said Valerie Ervin, president of the Ray Charles Foundation in Los Angeles.
For the new stamp, art director Ethel Kessler chose a photograph of Charles taken by Yves Carrère late in the great singer’s career. Designed to evoke the appearance of a vintage 45 rpm record sleeve, the stamp sheet contains two sides that include the stamps and the image of a record appearing to peek out of the top of the sleeve.
“We are very pleased to announce that the third stamp in the new, ‘Music Icons,’ series will celebrate the life and music of Ray Charles,” Postal officials said in statement. “This extraordinary composer, singer, and pianist, blind since childhood, went beyond category, blending blues, gospel, country, jazz and soul music in a unique and highly influential pop music style.”
Earlier this year, the postal service revealed plans for a new stamp set called, “Music Icons.” The series shines the spotlight on three American originals, the late Lydia Mendoza, a pioneer of Tejano music, Johnny Cash, the country music superstar known as “The Man in Black,” and Charles, the musical trailblazer who many musicians, including superstar Stevie Wonder, consider an idol.
Released on what would have been the singer’s 83rd birthday on Monday, Sept. 23, the stamp coincides with a new, “Ray Charles Forever,” two-disc CD/DVD. The 12-song set features Charles’ performances of classic hits like, “America the Beautiful,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” and “Imagine.”
The disc also includes mega-hits like, “Georgia on My Mind,” “Hit the Road Jack,” “What’d I Say,” and “I’ve Got a Woman.”
“They are among the many hits that are standards and meet the test of time,” said Ervin, who co-executive produced the disc along with John Burk of the Concord Music Group. “But, to mark this momentous occasion, I selected songs that also exemplify the forever quality of his performances,” she said.
Born in 1930 in Albany, Ga., Charles lost his sight at age seven. He learned to play piano at a school for the blind in Florida where he initially became immersed in classical music. As his career developed, Charles’ love of jazz and blues became evident and his soulful voice and precise piano style became his trademark.
Charles, who counted among the first inductees into both the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1979, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, earned numerous Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award.
The legendary singer, whom Hollywood brilliantly captured in a major motion picture in which comedian Jamie Foxx portrayed him, died from kidney problems in 2004, the same year that the biographical film, “Ray,” hit movie theaters.
The postal service selected Morehouse College in Atlanta as the venue for the stamp unveiling because of Charles’ strong ties to the community there. Earlier this year, the singer’s foundation awarded the prominent African-American school a $3 million gift that helped to secure the naming of the academic wing of the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center after his mother, Aretha Robinson.
“I know that Ray Charles had a long-standing relationship with Morehouse based on professionalism, integrity and honesty,” Ervin said. “He genuinely valued the education and preparation that Morehouse provides to young men.”