At age six, Ray Charles Robinson Jr. went in search of a
goodnight kiss from his famous father.
But what the boy found when he opened the door to Ray Charles‘
office that night would send most kids scurrying into therapy for
Robinson found his blind musician father crumpled and twitching on the
floor, bleeding out. Dazed from heroin, the singer had accidentally
severed a tendon and artery in his arm while shooting up.
A pool of blood was creeping under the office door.
Robinson screamed “Daddy! Daddy! Blood, Mommy, blood!” alerting his
The singer, out on bail for drug possession, was rushed to the doctor.
Ray Charles’ eldest son recounts that emotional evening in his new
memoir, “You Don’t Know Me: Reflections of my Father, Ray Charles”
(Harmony Books, $24.99).
On Thursday, June 10 at the Fulton County Library at One Margaret Mitchell
Square downtown at 7 p.m., the Georgia Center for the Book will host
Robinson as he introduces readers to his highly personal memories of his
father known the world over as “The Genius.”
In an interview with Intel, Robinson recalled that desperate night.
“My father was bleeding to death in front of my eyes,” Robinson
“He was just completely out of it. He never, ever talked about that
night with me afterward. He discussed it with his inner circle. Some of
his musician friends later told me, ‘Your father will always be behind
you because you saved his life.’ So I knew that he knew but it was never
Harrowing heroin overdoses aside, “You Don’t Know Me” is no
mean-spirited “Mommie Dearest”-esque hatchet job on a deceased famous
Rather, it’s a fascinating, engrossing account of an extremely
complicated musician who loved his family dearly but who also possessed
an insatiable appetite for women and drugs.
Robinson served as a co-producer on the Oscar winning “Ray” bio pic a
few years back, but he says the film doesn’t tell the entire Ray Charles
“This book is everything you didn’t see in ‘Ray’ or read in my father’s
memoir,” explained Robinson. “I wanted readers to get to know the Ray
Charles I grew up at home with his family.”
The famous father who serenely sang Christmas carols softly to himself
at night and who, despite his handicap, assembled his childrens’
bicycles and taught them how to ride.
Among the most sweetly poignant passages in the book?
Robinson recalls watching his father record his hit song, “You Don’t
Know Me” that would eventually be included on his landmark 1962 album,
“Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.”
Writes Robinson: “He sat there in his white T-shirt, with his glasses
off and his face vulnerable, as I leaned against him and felt the music
vibrate through my body and fill my soul. I knew even then that his
music was something special, a gift from God illuminating the darkness
in which my father lived each day.”
Robinson also recounts the Georgia native’s complicated history with the
South, even after penning “Georgia on my Mind,” the future state song.
The Albany native and civil rights advocate requested that whites and
blacks be allowed down front together at his concerts. In response,
Georgia nightclubs banned him from performing.
“I was so happy that my father’s home state later recognized him for his
work in the civil rights movement,” said Robinson. “It meant a lot to
him. I’m going to Albany on this book tour. I’ve never been. I want to
be able to share this journey with my children and grandchildren.”
Reliving his unpleasant childhood experiences for “You Don’t Know Me”
was sometimes difficult for Robinson.
“But I want this book to add to my father’s legacy,” he explained.
“Maybe I missed out on the father-son relationship I always wanted to
have with him. But I’ve learned that you can’t custom-build your
relationship with your parents. If you could, there would be no trials,
no lessons learned. I was loved and that was enough.”