A gifted pianist and saxophonist who seamlessly blended gospel and blues, Grammy-winning Ray Charles died on June 10, 2004, at his Beverly Hills home. His last public appearance was on April 30, when the city of Los Angeles named Charles' studios, built 40 years ago in central L.A., a historic landmark.
Diagnosed with glaucoma at age six, Charles became hooked on music early on, playing piano at The St. Augustine School for the Blind. After the death of his mother when he was 15, Charles headed to Florida and then Seattle to dabble in the music industry, finally cutting his first record in 1949. At Atlantic Records in the mid-1950s, Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler teamed up with Charles to produce some of the most well-known and influential soul/R&B music to hit the charts.
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