Living the American Dream

This post is about two guys who lived the American dream. I hope we can recapture the country that will allow future generations to do the same.

Ray Robinson was born in 1930 in Georgia to a poor blue collar couple who never married. Before he became an adolescent, his parents both died. He was educated at a school for the handicapped where he learned and loved to play the piano. He played backup in a few bands in Florida and later in Seattle. He recorded his first song in 1951 and a year later signed with Atlantic Records.

Once he started recording, his name was shortened so it wouldn’t be confused with Sugar Ray Robinson, the boxer. His first big hit, I Got a Woman, came out in 1955 and that launched a career that did not end until his death in 2004.

He sang for Presidents and other heads of state. He won dozens of Grammy Awards including the industries Lifetime Achievement Award. He was inducted into the R & B Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Jazz Hall of Fame. The state song of Georgia is his composition and it was sung by Gladys Knight at the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He appeared in 8 movies including one made of his life. He is known to others in the industry simply as The Genius.

The other man to realize the American dream was born in 1950 as Stevand Hardaway Judkins. He was born prematurely which caused several health problems, some of which he still suffers. But he was precocious and learned to play music at an early age. He too was educated at a school for special children.

In 1962, at the age of 12, Stevand was introduced to Ronnie White, a member of a group called The Miracles, who in turn introduced him to the CEO of Motown Records, Berry Gordy. The next year, at the age of 13 and after a name change, Stevand had his first big hit under the Motown label. He sang vocals and played the harmonica. Another young performer, Marvin Gaye, played drums.

Today, after 34 top ten singles, 12 top 10 albums and 22 Grammy Awards spanning 40 years, he is still going strong.

Both of these performers are black which in the early days was an enormous obstacle to exposure and success in the entertainment industry. And in case I forgot to mention it, they both became blind before the age of 7. And now, as Paul Harvey would say, you know the rest of the story.

I give you Ray Charles Robinson and Stevand Stevie Wonder Judkins together in concert. The American Dream.

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