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Ray Charles Will Be Inducted Into The Country Music Hall Of Fame

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

This week, the great Ray Charles was voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Of course, he's best known for recording hit soul and R&B songs. But growing up, he was a big fan of country music.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RAY CHARLES: I've always loved it as a kid. But that was the only time my mom would let me stay up past 9 o'clock on Saturday night, to listen to Grand Ole Opry. I was very fascinated by country music.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

That's Ray Charles in a 1998 interview on Fresh Air from WHYY. In 1962, he recorded an album called "Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music," which was a bestseller and led to four hit singles, including this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU DON'T KNOW ME")

CHARLES: (Singing) No, you don't know the one who dreams of you at night and longs to kiss your lips, and longs to hold you tight, oh.

MARTINEZ: This song is called "You Don't Know Me," a song originally made famous by Eddy Arnold. Now, for many music fans, this album was their first exposure to country artists like Arnold and Hank Williams. But the songs were presented through the genius of Ray Charles. In that same Fresh Air interview, Charles ascribed his genre-spanning success to his versatility.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

CHARLES: You see, I am not a country singer. I'm not a jazz singer. I am not a blues singer. What I am is - I am a singer that can sing country music. I can sing the blues. I can sing a love song. But I'm not a specialist.

INSKEEP: Willie Nelson once said Ray Charles did more for country music than any single artist has ever done. Willie Nelson said that. Sometime next year, Ray Charles will join Pete Drake and Eddie Bayers and the mother-daughter duo of The Judds in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY, GOOD LOOKING")

CHARLES: (Singing) Hey, good looking. What you got cooking? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.