Music Legend Ray Charles Dies

JUNE 10, 2004 - Posted at 3:14 p.m. CDT, updated at 5:09 p.m. CDT

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - Singer Ray Charles has died.

He was 73.  A spokesman says he died today at his Beverly Hills home surrounded by family and friends.  Charles died of acute liver disease.

During his long career, Charles scored hits with songs like "What'd I Say," "Hit the Road Jack," and "Georgia On My Mind."  He was also well known for his classic rendition of "America the Beautiful."

Charles last public appearance was on April 30, when the city of Los Angeles designated his studios, built 40 years ago in central Los Angeles, as a historic landmark.

Blind by age seven and an orphan at 15, Charles spent his life breaking musical boundaries and defying easy definition.

A gifted pianist and saxaphonist, he dabbled in country, jazz, big band and blues.  In his 1978 autobiography, Charles said his secret to success was simple: "I was born with music inside me."

Charles won nine of his twelve Grammy Awards between 1960 and 1966, including the best R&B recording three consecutive years.

Actor and filmmaker Clint Eastwood says the entertainment world will miss Charles.  Eastwood filmed Charles extensively for a segment in the 2003 documentary "The Blues."  He says Charles was "admired both as a friend and as an artist."

Performer Bruce Hornsby says at another star-studded event last year attended by Charles, "Everyone else was playing for second."

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)