This was written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell in 1930. Carmichael was an actor, performer, and popular songwriter - some of his other compositions include "Stardust" and "Winter Moon." Gorrell was a banker living in New York City, and he wrote the lyrics.
It's possible that this was written about a woman, not the state. Carmichael and Gorrell didn't live in Georgia, but Carmichael did have a sister named Georgia.
This was a #10 hit for a Jazz saxophone player named Frankie Trumbauer in 1931. Many artists have recorded it over the years, including Louis Armstrong, James Brown (a Georgia native), Django Reinhardt, and Willie Nelson. Charles' version is by far the most famous.
Charles decided to record this after his driver suggested it, since Ray kept singing it while riding in the car.
Ray Charles was born in Georgia. His family moved to Florida when he was still a baby.
The orchestra was arranged by Ralph Burns, Woody Herman's pianist.
This was recorded quickly in New York City - it took only four takes to complete (compared to Charles' usual 10-12 takes).
This won Grammy awards for Best Male Vocal Recording and Best Pop Song Performance. The album also won for Best Male Vocal Performance Album, and another song on the album, "Let the Good Times Roll," won for Best R&B Performance, giving Charles a total of 4 Grammys in 1960.
Five different versions of this song have made the US Hot 100. Here the four that came after Charles' recording:
Righteous Brothers (#62, 1966)
Georgia Pines Candymen (#81, 1967)
Wes Montgomery (#91, 1968)
Willie Nelson (#84, 1978)
Michael Bolton (#36, 1990)
This was the first of three #1 records for Ray Charles ("Hit the Road, Jack" and "I Can't Stop Loving You" are his others).
In 1979, this became the official state song of Georgia.
Willie Nelson sang this at Charles' funeral in 2004.
Charles won 8 awards at the 2005 Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year and Album of the Year (for Genius Loves Company). He was honored throughout the show; Alicia Keys and Jamie Foxx performed this as part of the tribute. Foxx had recently portrayed Charles in the movie Ray.