Music legend Ray Charles is getting another accolade. The United States Postal Service is honoring the late singer with a commemorative stamp to be released on Monday, as part of its Music Icons series that had previously honored Tejano music singer/guitarist Lydia Mendoza and country legend Johnny Cash.
On that day – which is also Charles’ birthday – two events for the stamp will take place: one at Morehouse College’s Ray Charles Performing Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia – the state where Charles was born – and the other at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. Ashanti will perform as part of the Atlanta event and Chaka Khan will be singing at the Grammy Museum.
The artwork for the stamp is based on a photograph by Yves Carrère. Designer Neal Ashby, who with art director Ethel Kessler was involved in the search for just the right photo, told the USPS publication Beyond the Perf that it was hard to find an iconic image, given Charles’ long career. “I was looking for that smile, that slight cock of the head – that almost rapturous expression he had when he performed,” he said. Eventually, a photograph that was used on the album The Best of Ray Charles was selected. “It’s Ray soaking in the applause and the pure joy of the moment,” Kessler told Beyond the Perf. “I loved the color in his shirt and the diagonal of the photo. It’s clean and graphic, which I knew would work well at stamp size.”
The release of the Charles postage stamp also coincides with a new compilation album, Ray Charles Forever, which is due out on Tuesday, September 24th. It features recordings by Charles of standards including “America the Beautiful” and “Ring of Fire,” as well a previously-unreleased recording of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” which Charles often performed in his live shows.