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Music Legend Ray Charles Dead At 73 - 2004-06-10

The Grammy award winning song writer and singer Ray Charles has died in California at the age of 73. The blind musician known for hits that include "Georgia on My Mind" died of liver disease Thursday.

Ray Charles once said he was born with music in his soul, and he was equally at home backing up a symphony or accompanying himself on piano. He is one of the creators of American soul music and, blending rhythm and blues and gospel, created his own distinctive style.

He is remembered for songs that include "Hit the Road, Jack" and "I Can't Stop Loving You."

Born in Albany, Georgia, he began to learn piano at age three. He was blind by age seven and orphaned by 15, but by the 1960s, had reached the pinnacle of the music business. He won 13 Grammy awards, including one for lifetime achievement.

He once looked ahead to this day.

"If by some reason the master decided to take me away tomorrow, I really would have absolutely no regrets because I have, as Martin Luther King said, 'I have been to the mountain top,'" he said.

Ray Charles was one of the original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and said his musical influences ranged from Chopin to country-western and jazz.

His last public appearance was April 30, when the city of Los Angeles designated his studio an historic landmark.

A spokesman says Ray Charles died just before noon Thursday in Beverly Hills, California, surrounded by friends and family.