Sheila Raye Charles -  Lecturer / Pop Artist

 
 

About Sheila Raye Charles

Sheila Raye Charles is the daughter of pianist soul singer Ray Charles.  Her life has been a bumpy ride, but she is now back on the path traveling the country sharing her story and singing her, and her father's, songs.

History

Sheila Raye Charles -- also called Sheila Jean Robinson -- was born in Los Angeles in 1963 to Charles and Cambridge native Sandra Jean Betts. She and her mother moved around quite a bit as she grew up, living for a number of years in Cambridge. But wherever she went Sheila Raye kept in mind her goal of someday becoming a singer like her father.

Sheila Ray loved all types of music but especially rock and roll.

"I wanted to be the black Janice Joplin," she said. "I did a soft-rock demo, but the music producers said, no, you're Ray Charles's kid. You can't do rock, you have to do rhythm and blues. So I thought, OK, and wrote some really cool originals."

Sheila Raye's music was well accepted and she has done well with it. But her path was not always easy. Charles, while very successful in his musical career, spent his life on the road and was not very available to his family.

Married twice, Charles had 12 children with nine different women.

"And we didn't know about each other until his funeral," Sheila Raye said. "All my life I wanted someone who knew what it was like being the child of a superstar who didn't have time for me, and then at his funeral I met 11 brothers and sisters who really did know. It turned out he really did love us all the same ... the best he could."

Sheila Raye's new family connections have been a real blessing to her. Her loneliness as a child, the misery of feeling rejected by a sometimes-father and being moved from place to place by a mother who didn't seem to fare any better in relationships than her father led her to run away from home at 15. On the streets, she became addicted to drugs, suffered physical and mental abuse at the hands of others and eventually landed in federal prison. This was a cycle Sheila Raye repeated for years, eventually giving birth to and losing five children because of her seemingly uncontrollable drug addiction.

It was her second stint in federal prison that she credits with saving her life, as it was there she made her peace with God and with herself.

"I'm a walking, living testimony to God's love," she said. "I brought my troubles on myself, but He saved me. The greatest thing I've learned is to let God be who he is in my life. He created all of us and I think it's so beautiful to know he can connect with us."

Upon her release from prison, Sheila Raye has felt her calling is to show other lost women how to reclaim their lives by being very transparent about her own difficult journey. In 2007, she started the One Way Up Prison Ministry, and spends much of her time traveling to prisons across the country singing and talking to the women there.

"I try to give them a different way of life so they'll have hope," she said.

After her father's death in 2004, Sheila Raye found her place in the musical world bringing both her music and the music of her father to people everywhere.

"I've found people really like to have a continuation of Ray Charles and I can give them that," she said. 

   


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