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Ray Charles gets his own stamp

U.S. Postal worker Jennifer Loud holds up a sheet of 16 Ray Charles postage stamps. The new stamp, introduced Monday, marked Charles’s induction into the USPS Music Icons Stamp Series. (Staff photo: Terry Lewis)

U.S. Postal worker Jennifer Loud holds up a sheet of 16 Ray Charles postage stamps. The new stamp, introduced Monday, marked Charles’s induction into the USPS Music Icons Stamp Series. (Staff photo: Terry Lewis)

ALBANY — On what would have been his 83rd birthday, the “father of soul,” Albany native Ray Charles, returned to two “stamping ovations” Monday as the latest inductee into the Postal Service’s Music Icons Forever Stamp Series. The ceremonies took place at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center at Morehouse College in Atlanta and The GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles.

Chaka Khan performed at the Los Angeles first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony and Ashanti highlighted the Atlanta event.

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The U.S. Postal Service’s new Ray Charles stamp. (Special photo)

Available in sheets of 16, customers may purchase the stamps at post offices nationwide or at usps.com/stamps.

Counter personnel at the main post office on South Slappey Boulevard said they are selling the stamps, but that they are moving slowly. They added slow sales is not unusual on the first day of an issue and they expect the numbers to pick up as the stamp’s availability becomes better known.

“Ray Charles taught us the value of hard work and determination, how to overcome challenges and how to tap the genius inherent in each person,” said Valerie Ervin, president of The Ray Charles Foundation “We are extremely grateful that the Postal Service is celebrating this legacy with the release of a stamp in Ray Charles’ honor.”

The stamp features an image of Charles taken later in his career by photographer Yves Carrere. The stamp sheet was designed to evoke the appearance of a 45 rpm single peeking out of a record sleeve above the stamps themselves. On the reverse side, the sheet includes a larger version of the photograph featured on the stamp, as well as the logo for the Music Icons series.

“Frank Sinatra, himself a stamp honoree, once characterized Ray Charles as ‘the only true genius in show business,’ and certainly, if anyone was a musical genius, it was Ray Charles,” said U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer William Campbell, was to dedicate the stamp at the Atlanta ceremony. “Despite being blind and having a young life marked by tragedy, hardship and tremendous challenges, Ray Charles went on to have a remarkable 58-year career playing music that blurred the lines of jazz, gospel, blues and, in later years, country.

“In doing so, he became the personification of the American Dream.”

U.S. Postal Service Sales Vice President Cliff Rucker said he felt the stamp was an appropriate way to honor the music icon.

“It is with great pleasure that we honor a man who not only had an incalculable impact on the face of contemporary soul, R&B, gospel and rock, but also touched people individually,” Rucker said. “The third in our new Music Icons series, Ray Charles’ stamp, another tribute to his legacy, will join those of distinguished performers Lydia Mendoza and Johnny Cash, which were dedicated earlier this year. And how fitting that Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, who in life were such great friends and recorded two duets together, will be reunited in the form of postage stamps.”

Charles became the second area musician to be honored with his own stamp. In 1993, the USPS similarly honored Dawson native Otis Redding. Major league baseball great Jackie Robinson of Cairo was commemorated with his own stamp in 1982.