The Jazzcat

Not a jazz Legend but, a Legend MUSIC certainly owes a debt of graditude. Ray Charles passes away at 73

by on Jun.11, 2004, under News



Historic Figure: Entertainment Giant Won 13 Grammy® Awards, Numerous Others Across the Globe

(Los Angeles, Calif., June 10, 2004)—Music legend Ray Charles, 73,

a 13-time Grammy® Award winner, known the world over as “The Genius of

Soul,” died at 11:35 AM (PDT) today at the age of 73, announced his

publicist, Jerry Digney, of Solters & Digney.

He was surrounded by family, friends and longtime business associates at his home in Beverly Hills.

“Although he was very successful and owned a home in Beverly Hills,

his first home was always his treasured studio, recently named a city

landmark,” said a saddened Joe Adams, the entertainer's manager for the

past 45 years.

Charles' last public appearance was alongside Clint Eastwood on

April 30, when the city of Los Angeles designated the singer's studios

an historic landmark.

Last summer, it was initially reported that Charles—born in

Albany, GA, on Sept. 30, 1930, as Ray Charles Robinson—was suffering

from “acute hip discomfort.”

As doctors began to treat the entertainer in Los Angeles and perform

a successful hip replacement procedure, other ailments were diagnosed,

and Charles ultimately succumbed from complications due to liver


Prior to his death, Charles finalized a duets album, “Genius Loves

Company,” for the Concord label, his first new album since 2001 and

okayed plans for the building of the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center

at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Norah Jones, BB King, Willie Nelson, Michael McDonald, Bonnie Raitt,

Gladys Knight, Johnny Mathis and James Taylor are just a few of the

notable artists involved with the project, which is scheduled for

release Aug. 31.

“The duets project has been a tremendous experience,” he said, at the outset of recording.

“I am working with some of the best artists in the business, as well as some of my dearest friends.”

Charles was recently awarded the prestigious “President's Merit

Award” from the Grammy® organization by its president, Neil Portnow,

just prior to the 2004 Grammy® Awards, and was named a City of Los

Angeles “Cultural Treasure” by Mayor James Hahn during “African

American Heritage Month” in a February ceremony that he attended.

He also received the NAACP Image Awards' “Hall of Fame Award” on March 6.

An accomplished pianist and songwriter, Charles was considered the

creator of the soul music genre, a unique R&B forerunner to rock n'

roll and other musical offspring.

During a career that spanned some 58 years, Charles starred on over

250 albums, many of them top sellers in a variety of musical genres.

Blessed with one of the 20th century's most advanced musical minds, Charles became an American cultural icon decades ago.

Among his memorable hits are “What'd I Say,” “I Got A Woman,”

“Georgia,” “Born To Lose,” “Hit the Road Jack” and “I Can't Stop Loving


He also gave the Ray Charles touch to such popular fare as the Beatles' “Eleanor Rugby” and “Yesterday.”

Among the singer's most moving and enduring musical recordings is his oft-played rendition of “America The Beautiful.”

Charles appeared in movies, such as “The Blues Brothers,” and on

television, and starred in commercials for Pepsi and California

Raisins, among numerous others.

After going blind from glaucoma at the age of seven, Charles was

sent to the St. Augustine, Fla., School for the deaf and blind, where

he developed his enormous musical gift.

The young pianist eventually made his way to Seattle, Wash.,

performing as a solo act, first modeling himself after Nat “King” Cole.

While in Seattle, he met a young Quincy Jones and they became lifelong friends.

In the late 1940s, he began establishing a name for himself in clubs

around the northwest, evolving his own music and singing style, which

later included the famous back up singers, “The Raelettes.”

While in Seattle, he dropped the “Robinson” from his name to avoid confusion with the legendary boxer.

A recording career began in earnest in 1949 and Charles soon started a musical experiment, which included mixing genres.

The experiments manifested themselves in 1955 with the successful release of “I Got a Woman.”

It's reported that in devising the song, Charles reworded the gospel

tune, “Jesus is all the World to Me,” adding deep church inflections to

the secular rhythms of the nightclubs.

“I Got A Woman” is popularly credited as the first true “soul” record.

The renowned entertainer, who had not missed a tour in 53

consecutive years of concert travels, had cancelled his remaining 2003

tour, beginning last August.

“It breaks my heart to withdraw from these shows,” he said at the time.

“All my life, I've been touring and performing. It's what I do. But

the doctors insist I stay put and mend for a while, so I'll heed their


While remaining in Los Angeles, Charles continued a light work load

at his studios and offices, overseeing production of new releases for

his own record label, Crossover Records, mixing a long-planned gospel

CD and beginning work on the duets album.

A feature film based on his life story, “Unchain My Heart, The Ray

Charles Story,” starring Jamie Foxx as the entertainer, completed

principal filming early last summer.

Charles' last public performance of his career was on July 20, 2003, in Alexandria, VA.

“Ray Charles was a true original, a musical genius and a friend and

brother to me,” said Adams, the entertainer's longtime manager and

business partner.

“He pioneered a new style and opened the door for many young

performers to follow. Some of his biggest fans were the young music

stars of today, who loved and admired his talent and independent


In addition to multiple Grammy® Awards, including one for Lifetime

Achievement, Charles is also one of the original inductees into the

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Presidential Medal

for the Arts, France's Legion of Honor and the Kennedy Center Honors.

He has also been inducted into numerous other music Halls of Fame,

including those for Jazz and Rhythm and Blues, a testament to his

enormous influence.

“You can't run away from yourself,” Charles once said.

“I was raised in the church and was around blues and would hear all

these musicians on the jukeboxes and then I would go to revival

meetings on Sunday morning. So I would get both sides of music. A lot

of people at the time thought it was sacrilegious but all I was doing

was singing the way I felt.”

Last May, he headlined the White House Correspondents Dinner in

Wash., DC, at which President and Mrs. Bush, Colin Powell and

Condoleeza Rice, were in attendance, and he also starred with Vince

Gill, George Jones and Glen Campbell in a Nashville television special

saluting country music's top 100 hits.

Charles' performance of “Behind Closed Doors” on the TV special garnered the evening's biggest standing ovation.

In 2002, Charles celebrated the 40th anniversary of his first

country hit, “I Can't Stop Loving You,” which became a number one chart

topper and expanded the scope of the entertainer's career to the

industry's astonishment.

Last year, the press-shy Charles sat for interviews in Los Angeles

with film star Clint Eastwood, who conversed with the music pioneer

about the blues for a documentary, “Piano Blues,” seen on PBS, and also

reunited with his longtime friend and early record industry patron,

Ahmet Ertegun, founder of Atlantic Records, for a television profile on

the record label legend.

Early last summer, he performed his 10,000th career concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.

In May, 2003, he also received his fifth doctorate from Dillard University in New Orleans.

In 2002, Charles and Adams endowed both Morehouse College and Albany

State Univ., in Charles' birthplace of Albany, GA, with substantial

contributions, exceeding $1 million each.

Sixteen years ago, Charles established the Ray Charles Robinson Foundation for the hearing impaired.

Since its creation, the foundation, with Charles' encouragement and

generous, on-going funding, has blazed a trail of discovery in auditory

physiology and hearing implantation.

Each such implant procedure costs upwards of $40,000, which the Foundation pays to have done.

Of some 145-celebrity charities, the Ray Charles Foundation is rated

by non-profit experts as one of the top five most efficient with zero

administrative overhead.

Recently, a series of slot machines were designed in Charles' name

for the visually handicapped and the legendary performer was also named

a “living legend” by the Library of Congress in 2002.

He also starred in a concert in May, 2002, at the Colosseum in Rome, the first musical performance there in 2,000 years.

Charles once told an interviewer from USA Today, “Music to me is just like breathing. I have to have it. It's part of me.”

Despite recent health challenges, Charles was planning to again

start touring in mid-June and the sudden setback in his recovery was a

great shock to all.

Eleven children, 20 grandchildren and five great grandchildren

survive Charles, who will be remembered late next week at a memorial

service at the FAME Church in central Los Angeles with interment at

Inglewood Cemetery in Inglewood, Calif.



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