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President Barack Obama paid tribute Wednesday to Ray Charles and the late singer-songwriter’s unmistakable “singular sound” that the president said continues to influence generations of musicians.

Obama noted that Charles grew up in the segregated South, his early years colored by poverty and tragedy. But, the president said, Charles had two things working in his favor: a strong mother and music.

He quoted Charles as once saying that he was born with music inside of him and noted that Charles’ career encompassed every genre, including jazz, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, country and soul.

“Whatever genre of music he was playing, there was no mistaking his singular sound: that virtuoso piano playing that matched that one-of-a-kind voice,” Obama said at the White House, where he and first ladyMichelle Obama hosted a taping of “Smithsonian Salutes Ray Charles: In Performance at the White House.”

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Charles & King At The Apollo

Source: Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images / Getty

Ray Charles Paid Tribute To In White House Performance  was originally published on