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Sheila Raye Charles: Breaking her own musical boundaries with Central Minnesota Teen Challenge and beyond


I am grateful for all that he has given me and the empowerment he has shown to sing my music,” said Sheila Raye Charles, daughter of legendary musician Ray Charles, during her visit to the Brainerd lakes area Thursday.


But she wasn’t referring to her biological father who broke musical barriers.

Instead, Charles thanked her heavenly Father for her musical inclinations and so much more, making her visit to sing with Central Minnesota Teen Challenge at their banquet Thursday night at Cragun’s Lodge and with Pastor Ron Keyson at Brainerd Nazarene Church on Sunday more powerful than could be imagined.

Charles, born the seventh of her father’s 12 children, takes special pride in performing with Teen Challenge programs across the United States. Battling an addiction to crack cocaine for 20 years herself, resulting in the loss of custody of all five of her children, Charles said she turned to God like many of the young men involved in Central Minnesota Teen Challenge have for forgiveness and a second chance.

“My heart has such a passion for Teen Challenge first and foremost because it utilizes the power of God and Jesus Christ,” said Charles, making her first ever visit to the Brainerd lakes area during this recent trip. “And they have the highest success rate out of any program across the United States because they use the power of the Lord.

“So many people that have come through this program have never even thought in their wildest dreams that they would have a relationship with God, so to see the transformation from somebody that has lived a life of drugs, prostitution or whatever their lives may be, to be renewed is a powerful thing.”

Singing “This Little Light of Mine” with both teens and adults that have struggled with addictions and are involved in Central Minnesota Teen Challenge, Charles said the song had significant meaning.

“Quite honestly I wish it said this big light of mine because when you’ve received Christ in your life, it illuminates you that much,” Charles said. “When you come from a world of darkness and you look at the drug life, everything comes from the dark. You sleep in the daylight and stay up all night so you are constantly living a life of darkness spiritually and in the natural realm but to believe that there is a light in you like these young men have is awesome and you can’t help but get excited about it.

“These young men have come so far. They are not singers and here they are, singing along with the help of the Lord.”

Of course being born to Ray Charles carries its own weight and pressure for singing, according to Charles. But performing a melody of her father’s music during Thursday’s banquet, including the songs “Unchain My Heart,” “Hit the Road Jack,” and “Georgia on My Mind,” Charles said she finally feels worthy to sing his music, with the help of the Lord.

“I never thought I would be singing my father’s music, nor did I want to because I never thought I could live up to my dad because who can live up to that Ray Charles — he did such great things,” she said. “But I know now that I, too, can do great things through Christ Jesus and I am who I am because of him, just like these young men are, too.

“It’s a really cool feeling because now I am more empowered to sing his (Ray Charles’) music.”

It’s a tribute, Charles said, that can be paid to “both heavenly and earthly fathers.”

Charles said that her book and CD, “Behind the Shades” can be purchased at and 10 percent of purchases will go toward Central Minnesota Teen Challenge through May 13.

Jessi Pierce
Born: 9/28/1987 (age 24) High School: Mahtomedi High School (home of the Zephyrs) in Mahtomedi, Minn. College: Journalism and Mass Communications degree from Iowa State University (Class 2010) Passions: Sharing the story. I love getting to know people, and in particular this town as it is so new to me, and being able to share something about them with the public. That and sports, especially hockey and lacrosse. Follow me on Twitter @jessi_pierce (views on Twitter do not represent that of the Brainerd Dispatch)
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