The Ray Charles Memorial Library, featuring interactive exhibits about the musician’s life and career, officially opened its doors Thursday night in the studio and office building the singer built in South Los Angeles in the early 60s.
Charles’ friends and colleagues — including Quincy Jones, B.B. King, producer Jimmy Jam and filmmaker Taylor Hackford — welcome visitors via video to each section of the library, which is more like an interactive museum, according to the AP.
Touch screens invite guests to explore Charles’ most memorable recordings, while exhibits feature some of his Grammy awards, stage costumes, old contracts and ever-present sunglasses.
Charles’ fans can see his personal piano and saxophone, his collection of microphones and letters he received from Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Johnny Cash. The library also includes a mixing station, where visitors can compose their own mixes of Charles’ classic rhythms and melodies, and a karaoke room, where they can sing along with Charles and the Raelettes.
“Ray spent more time in this building than any other in the world,” said Tony Gumina, head of the Ray Charles Marketing Group. “In this building, Ray Charles had 20-20 vision.”
His recording studio and a closet full of his clothes remain on the second floor of the building, which was declared a cultural and historic landmark by the city in 2004.
The library will be open exclusively to school children by invitation only. Officials plan to extend access to the general public sometime next year.
A collection of previously unreleased Charles recordings, including a country collaboration with Cash, is due out next month.