Thursday, June 10, 2004

I feel so incredibly sad. Ray Charles passed away today.

Music Icon Ray Charles Dies in California at Age 73

- Ray Charles, who overcame childhood poverty, blindness and heroin addiction to help create soul music and become one of America's most beloved singers, died on Thursday at the age of 73 after a long fight with liver disease, his spokesman said.

Charles died at 11:35 a.m. PDT (2:35 p.m. EDT) at his Beverly Hills home, the singer's longtime publicist Jerry Digney said. Family members and co-workers of the legendary entertainer were with him when he died.

In one of his last public appearances, the singer-songwriter turned up in a motorized wheelchair for a ceremony in April conferring historic-building status on his longtime recording complex in a rundown part of Los Angeles.

Visibly frail, his voice reduced to a whisper, Charles' demeanor then was a far cry from the wildly enthusiastic performer known to millions of fans for more than half a century.

A prolific musician, Charles has been off the road for almost a year so that he could undergo a hip replacement. Unspecified complications forced him to scrap plans to resume touring with a performance in New York last month.

Charles, a pioneer of soul music whose biggest hits include "Georgia on My Mind" and "Hit the Road Jack," was a multiple Grammy winner who had been blind since the age of 6.

While known as "The Genius of Soul," Charles' music included standards, R&B, country pop and jazz.

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