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 song after his driver suggested it, since Ray kept singing it while riding in the car.
Ray Charles was born in Albany, 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 four 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 singles on the US Hot 100 for Ray Charles. "Hit the Road, Jack" and "I Can't Stop Loving You" are his others.
On April 24, 1979, this became the official state song of Georgia, replacing a song title "Georgia." Ray Charles performed the song the ceremony that day, where it was decreed:
The song "Georgia on My Mind," with lyrics by Mr. Stuart Gorrell and music by Mr. Hoagy Carmichael, has an enduring quality that has made it one of the best loved songs in America for many years.
Although "Georgia on My Mind" describes a Georgian's love for his state, its beautiful melody and lyrics have given the song a worldwide appeal.
"Georgia on My Mind" has been recorded by many outstanding artists, but the rendition by Mr. Ray Charles, a native Georgian, which was first recorded in 1958, has been greatly enjoyed by music lovers throughout the world.
It is appropriate that the official State song should be a beautiful song that has wide appeal throughout the country, and "Georgia on My Mind" is an outstanding example of these qualities.
Willie Nelson sang this at Charles' funeral in 2004.
Charles won eight 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.
Nelson's version was recorded for his 1978 album, Stardust, a collection of pop standards. Rick Blackburn, an executive at CBS Records Nashville who went on to become president of Atlantic Records, thought Nelson was nuts for taking on the project, thinking it would alienate his growing fanbase. Blackburn recalled Nelson's response in the 1988 biography Willie: "Willie said, 'Great songs are great songs no matter when they're written. The other thing is, my audience right now is young, college age, and mid-twenties. They'll think these are new songs, and at the same time we'll get the sentiment of the older audience who grew up with these songs but don't necessarily know the artist. We will bridge that gap."
Nelson was right. The album went to #1 on the country albums chart and stayed on the chart for ten years. His rendition of "Georgia On My Mind" was also a #1 hit on the country singles chart and earned him the Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1979.