Paul Warner, WireImage
Ray Charles has now been immortalized in a new Los Angeles museum opened last week, on what would have been the legendary piano player's 80th birthday. Housed in the same office building Charles built in the 1960s, the Ray Charles Memorial Library features exhibits chronicling his life and career and is open exclusively to school children by invitation only.
"In this building, Ray Charles had 20-20 vision." Tony Gumina, head of the Ray Charles Marketing Group, said of the historical RPM building at 2107 West Washington Blvd. "Ray spent more time in this building than any other in the world."
The museum holds some of Charles' belongings including Grammys, stage costumes, sunglasses, letters he received from Presidents Clinton and Bush, his saxophone, and a collection of microphones. Some of Charles' famous friends, like Quincy Jones, B.B. King and producer Terry Lewis appear in videos welcoming visitors to different sections of the facility. Visitors can also test out their own musical skills, via mixing stations where they can compose their own versions of Charles' hits and a karaoke room where they can sing along with the famed singer.
Bank rolled by Charles' charitable foundation, the organizations also disperses grants to support disabilities and other educational causes. Following his death in 2004, the 73-year-old left behind all of his property plus $50 million in cash to continue the efforts of his foundation. Plans to open the museum to the general public are in tow for next year.