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Charles, Ray (23 September 1930–10 June 2004), pop and jazz singer, pianist, and composer, was born Ray Charles Robinson in Albany, Georgia, the son of Bailey Robinson, a laborer, and Aretha Williams. Williams, a teenage orphan, lived in Greenville, Florida, with Robinson's mother and his wife, Mary Jane Robinson. The Robinson family had informally adopted her, and she became known as Aretha Robinson. Scandalously Aretha became pregnant by Bailey Robinson, and she briefly left Greenville late in the summer of 1930 to be with relatives in Albany for the baby's birth. Mother and child then returned to Greenville, and Aretha and Mary Jane shared Ray Charles's upbringing. He was deeply devoted to his mother and later recalled her perseverance, self-sufficiency, and pride as guiding lights in his life. His father abandoned the family and took another wife elsewhere....


Ray Charles. Gelatin silver print, c. 1961, by Michel Salou. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.


Mana-Zucca (25 December 1885–08 March 1981), pianist, singer, and composer, was born Gizella Zuccamanov in New York City, the daughter of Samuel Shepard Zuccamanov (later changed to Zuccaman) and Yachnia (later changed to Jasmine; maiden name unknown), both émigrés from Poland. At the time of her birth, the Zuccamans lived in the Harlem section of Manhattan. Mana-Zucca showed an interest in music at a very early age. Given a toy piano at the age of three, she could not play the half tones, which she found upsetting. Her parents were anxious to let her study piano, and her first studies were with a Russian neighbor named Patotnikoff. After some initial lessons with him, she continued with a Russian immigrant by the name of Platon Brounoff and at the age of three and a half gave her first recital at a small neighborhood social hall. Shortly thereafter, her father took her to audition at the National Conservatory of Music (New York City), where at the age of four she was admitted on scholarship. Her first teachers at the conservatory were the Misses Margulies and Okell. Her first professional engagement was in Stamford, Connecticut, at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Phillips, who paid her $10 as a concert fee....