June 10, 2004
Ray Charles, the Grammy-winning crooner who blended gospel and blues in such crowd-pleasers as What'd I Say and heartfelt ballads like Georgia on My Mind, died on Thursday, June 10, 2004, in Beverly Hills. He was 73. Blind by age 7 and an orphan at 15, Charles spent his life shattering any notion of musical boundaries and defying easy definition. A gifted pianist and saxophonist, he dabbled in country, jazz, big band and blues, and put his stamp on it all with a deep, warm voice roughened by heartbreak from a hardscrabble childhood in the segregated South. Charles won nine of his 12 Grammy Awards between 1960 and 1966, including the best R&B recording three consecutive years Hit the Road Jack, I Can't Stop Loving You and Busted. "I was born with music inside me. That's the only explanation I know of," Charles said in his 1978 autobiography, Brother Ray. "Music was one of my parts ... Like my blood. It was a force already with me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me, like food or water."