Ray Charles, a much loved and respected musical genius, had a long career as a musician that was almost cut short by his heroin addiction.
In November of 1961, the singer was arrested at the Sheraton-Lincoln Hotel in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana.
Shortly after he checked in, he received a call from a man wanting to sell him drugs. When the man arrived, Charles bought a dozen three dollar capsules filled with heroin.
He and his band traveled to Anderson, Indiana just northeast of Indianapolis for a concert the next day, and returned to Indianapolis.
The plan was to go to a local club to hear Aretha Franklin sing, but Charles stayed behind.
The next morning a knock on the door of his suite woke Charles and when he asked who was at the door the reply was “Western Union” — but in fact, it was the Indianapolis police.
They pushed their way in without a search warrant and searched the room with Charles not knowing what was happening.
They seemed to know just where to look and found a needle and ten of the heroin capsules empty with residue still remaining.
Ray was arrested and hustled out the door with no respect for his privacy.
He was taken to the police station where the press was clamoring for a story, and the police staff let them into the room.
Although Charles was blind, he knew the familiar sound of camera shutters being clicked.
The reporters crowded around him and fired off embarrassing questions reducing the singer to tears.
The next day Charles was released on bond and headed to his hotel to meet up with his band, who had heard of the arrest on the radio.
They left for a gig in Evansville, Indiana across the Ohio River from the border of Kentucky.
When they arrived, the group was met by reporters who, again, encircled Charles pressing him with ridiculous questions.
When Charles returned to Indianapolis for his court appearance, a media circus greeted him at the courthouse.
They caused such a commotion that Judge Ernie S. Burke threatened to clear the building.
He set the date of the trial for January 1962. Charles posted his $1,000 bail bond and left Indiana for Nashville, Tennessee.
The concert tour was dogged by reporters who would not leave him alone. Repercussions of the arrest included a cancellation of an appearance on the Ed Sullivan television show, a venue that introduced many fledgling stars to the public including Elvis Presley, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Several other concerts were canceled as well.
In January, Charles returned to Indianapolis for his trial at the courthouse which was packed with reporters and fans.
The judge heard his attorney’s arguments that the police entered under false pretenses and illegally searched the room.
Judge Burke set his response for three weeks later when he ruled that because of the illegal way the police tried to entrap Charles, the charges would be dismissed.
For many, the fiasco would have caused them to think twice about returning to drugs but the pull of addiction was too strong for Charles and he was arrested for heroin possession again in 1964.
Wisely, Charles checked himself into St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood, California for addiction treatment.
After about five months in the hospital he emerged addiction free and was put on probation for five years. By 1966, his songs were climbing the music charts again.
Ray Charles, whose real surname was Robinson, died from liver disease in 2004 at the age of seventy three, in Beverly Hills, California.
He was entombed at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
Over one thousand people attended his funeral at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church. Some of his most beloved songs were performed at the service by Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Willie Nelson, his longtime chess partner and songwriting collaborator and his son, the Rev. Robert Robinson Sr.
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During his lifetime Ray Charles won twelve Grammy Awards and according to biography.com he performed more than ten thousand concerts and put out over sixty records.