musicNEWS: R&B Pioneer Ray Charles Dead at 73

06-10-04 Keavin
Music legend Ray Charles died on Thursday at the age of 73. Charles died at 11:35 a.m. with his family by his side at his Beverly Hills home. According to his publicist, Jerry Digney, the cause of death was complications from liver disease.

Ray Charles was born Ray Charles Robinson September 23, 1930 in Albany, Ga. In 1979, the song that he helped make a pop standard, “Georgia on My Mind” , became the official state song of his native Georgia. 

Charles, a 12-time Grammy Award winner, spent most of his life overcoming adversity. He watched his brother drown in a tub at age 5, was blinded at age 7 and orphaned at age 15, spent most of his youth in poverty living in the segregated South and then later overcame heroin addiction. But it is his musical catalog that made Charles a legend. He used his soulful voice to make songs such as “What'd I Say” and “Georgia on My Mind” enduring hits. 

While he was a pioneer in popular R&B, Charles never let himself be easily defined musically. He explored not only R&B but country, Jazz, traditional blues and gospel music to create his eclectic body of work. 

On April 30th of this year, Charles made his last public appearance. He was joined by actor Clint Eastwood as the city of Los Angeles declared his 40 year-old recording studio in central Los Angeles a historical landmark. 

"Music's been around a long time, and there's going to be music long after Ray Charles is dead," Charles told the Washington Post in 1983. "I just want to make my mark, leave something musically good behind. If it's a big record, that's the frosting on the cake, but music's the main meal."

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