How Did Ray Charles Die? The Details Behind Ray Charles’ Death

ray charles
Photo of Ray Charles in one of his classic poses at the piano in 1969. Image by William Morris Agency on Wikimedia Commons.

Last updated on September 18th, 2023 at 09:55 pm

From being one of the most iconic and influential singers ever to being labeled as The Genius and The Father of Soul in the 1950s, Ray Charles Robinson Sr. was undeniably a true phenomenon.

Hence, when news of his death spread, it left many industry professionals, music enthusiasts, and fans worldwide shocked and asking the question: how did Ray Charles die?

In this article, we’ll explore how legendary Ray Charles battled his illness and discuss the details surrounding his death.

How Did Ray Charles Die?

Ray Charles died due to complications from acute liver disease. His death was caused by infection with the Hepatitis C virus. 

According to various sources,  Charles had been battling liver complications for some time and was at risk of losing his life. 

The disease resulted from his struggles with drug use and alcohol, a common cause of liver-related illnesses like liver failure or chronic hepatitis.

Related: Ray Charles’ Net Worth

When Did Ray Charles Die?

The legendary American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer died on June 10, 2004. His spokesman Jerry Digney announced that he passed away at 11:35 am, surrounded by family and friends.

How Old Was Ray Charles When He Died?

Ray Charles was 73 years old at the time of his passing.

Where Is Ray Charles Buried?

Ray Charles is buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. His crypt is found in the Mausoleum of Golden West, Sanctuary of Eternal Love.

Inglewood Cemetery also serves as an eternal resting place for many notable figures, from Hollywood icons to music industry legends. Among them are movie star Betty Grable, award-winning vocalist Etta James, and celebrated recording artist Ella Fitzgerald.

Related: 30 Best Blues Songs: Discover the Blues

Who Inherited Ray Charles’ Money?

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the inheritance of Ray Charles’ wealth, primarily involving two parties entangled in legal disputes: the Robinson Foundation for Hearing Disorders and Ray Charles’ 12 children.

So how did it all start? 

On the Christmas of 2002, Ray Charles gathered his children at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport. Ten of his children listened as he disclosed his illness and outlined the expectations concerning what they could expect from his fortune.

According to the people present at the event and a trust document, $500,000 had been placed in individual trusts for each of the children to be paid out over the next five years. Furthermore, most of Charles’ assets would be left to Robinson Foundation for Hearing Disorders.

This, however, was not clearly stated, and the children thought that Ray Charles was meant to leave them $1 million each. Moreover, Ray Charles also insinuated that there would be more, which some interpreted as inheriting the right to license his name for profit.

This started a long battle of who would receive Charles’ musical recordings, artifacts, and videotapes, valued at almost $25 Million. This was in addition to his $50 million holdings in securities, real estate, and other assets.

The target of the family’s complaints was Joe Adams, Charles’ Manager, who became the family’s trustee after Ray Charles’ death. They claimed that he held too much power over Ray Charles’ estate.

In the end, the children have been unable to obtain an accounting of the estate. 

Most recently, however, Ray Charles’ children won a copyright dispute with Ray Charles Foundation, headed by Joe Adams. 

Nearly six years after they filed a case in 2017, the court delivered a verdict favoring Ray Charles’ children, giving them complete ownership of their father’s composed musical works. In addition, all profits from Ray Charles’ music will now go to the family.

Related: 12 Interesting Facts About Ray Charles

What Was Ray Charles’ Last Performance?

The “What’d I Say” singer’s last public appearance was on April 30, 2004, just two months before his death. 

It took place on Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles. For the show, Charles was accompanied by an orchestra. He sang his most famous songs, including classics like “Georgia on My Mind.” 

Ultimately, the singer got to do what he was born to do, indulging his greatest passion even to his last breath.

Ray Charles’ Legacy

Ray Charles shaped the music industry and inspired generations of performers. He left a lasting mark on music history, culture, and society.

He is the Father of Soul, pioneering the genre in the 60s and ultimately defining modern sounds and the shape of R&B today. Frank Sinatra called him “The only true genius in our business.”

Aside from overcoming his disability, he broke down racial barriers in the Western music industry. He achieved success and popularity among diverse audiences during a time of racial tension, which was a massive feat for an African American in the 1950s and 60s.

Like the Beatles, in the 1960s, Ray Charles refused to play for a segregated audience in Augusta, Georgia, helping the fight against racism and contributing to the Civil Rights movement. This action made him a symbol of progress and equality, especially for African-Americans.

He also received numerous accolades, including 12 Grammy awards and induction to both the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame.

Truly, Ray Charles’ legacy is a profound one that has stood the test of time.

Related: How Did Frank Sinatra Die?

Why was Ray Charles known as The Genius?

Ray Charles earned the title “The Genius” because of both his contribution to American music and his immense talent. His ability to seamlessly blend melodies and create crossovers of blues, gospel, soul, and jazz in his productions set him apart as a musical visionary.

How Did Ray Charles Go Blind?

Medical experts suggest that Ray Charles’ blindness was due to glaucoma, an eye condition that damages the optic nerves and leads to vision loss or blindness.

Contrary to popular belief, Ray Charles was not born blind. At age four, he began experiencing vision problems and lost his sight at the age of seven.

Despite that, Ray Charles defied the odds and became one of the most influential and iconic singers the world has ever known.

Why was Ray Charles important to music?

Beyond overcoming his own personal challenges, Ray Charles pioneered soul music. Ray Charles stood as a beacon of inspiration for fellow artists in black music and beyond.

The “Seven Spanish Angels” singer brought soulful music into the mainstream, defying labels and asserting his musical artistry.

Who was inspired by Ray Charles?

Charles’ vocal prowess and remarkable achievements across different genres have influenced many artists in the music industry. Music icons and performers such as Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Van Morrison, Steve Winwood, and many more have acknowledged the influence of Ray Charles in their musical styles.

Related: How Did Elvis Die?


Throughout his life, Ray Charles never let his loss of eyesight hinder him from curating an astonishing discography. He received numerous nominations and awards, including 12 Grammys, a testament to his unparalleled artistry.

Creating music from the heart, he was known as one of the pioneers in fusing gospel music and blending it with raw emotional power and secular themes. His famous songs, like “Hit the Road Jack,” remain American classics and continue to resonate with all music listeners.

Without a doubt, the life and legacy of Ray Charles Robinson is a testament to the power of human resilience and talent. His timeless and countless ballads will continue to inspire and resonate for generations, reminding us of the wonders and the magic that music can bring.

May he rest in peace.

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Written by Anna Paulson


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